Other Special Operations Forces

Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC)


The U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) is the global special response team for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Its mission is to respond to terrorist threats of all types anywhere in the world in order to protect our nation’s homeland. Its agents are counted among the nation’s most dedicated and highly trained special operators.

The five week BORTAC basic training course is considered one of the most difficult and arduous training courses in civilian law enforcement. Qualified BP personnel may volunteer for the unit. After an initial screening process, which includes a strenuous physical fitness test, prospective BORTAC operators are scheduled to attend the next BORTAC Basic Training Session. The course covers such diverse subjects as operations planning, land navigation, patrolling, tactical tracking, rappelling and fast roping, close quarters battle (CQB), riot control techniques, defensive tactics, drown proofing, trauma medicine, combat firearms, and air assault operations.

BORTAC headquarters is collocated with its training unit at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, Texas. The BORTAC training unit is currently responsible for conducting all CBP tactical team training. In addition the unit also provides specialist training to other Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. As part of a joint Department of State/ Department of Justice training program, BORTAC has also provided tactical team and counter narcotics training to several foreign governments police, paramilitary, tactical, drug, and specialist units, including the El Salvador National Police’s Grupo de Respuesta Policial (GRP) tactical unit.

Since its inception in 1984, BORTAC has developed a reputation in the special operations community as one of the premier tactical units in law enforcement. The Unit has continued to expand its scope and capabilities to address the growing threats to the United States and its interests abroad. Each year, it continually receives support requests from both U.S. and foreign military and law enforcement entities. To date, BORTAC members have operated in 28 countries around the world. Missions have included international training/advisory functions, counter terrorism operations, counter narcotics operations, high-risk warrant service, dignitary protection, interdiction & patrol operations, and tactical training to other U.S. agencies and military units. The agents represent almost every state in the country and have been operating as a well kept secret for 26 years.

During the 1980’s “War on Drugs,” BORTAC, in conjunction with the DEA, conducted counter narcotics operations in South America during Operation “Snow Cap.” In 1992, BORTAC was deployed to Los Angeles to help restore order after rioting broke out in the wake of the Rodney King trial. In April of 2000, the BORTAC conducted Operation “Reunion,” in which it executed a raid on a home in Miami, Florida and safely returned Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez to his family in Cuba. Following the World Trade Center Attack in September of 2001, BORTAC personnel were sent to high-risk areas around the country to help secure against future attacks. In 2002, BORTAC worked jointly with the United States Secret Service to secure sports venues at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. In the United States, the unit participates in tracking terrorism, riot control, and catching human smugglers and drug traffickers

Recent natural disasters have vaulted BORTAC personnel into tactical relief operations (TRO) by providing hurricane relief aid to Gulf Coast residents and law enforcement support to law enforcement agencies affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Current BORTAC operations in support of United States interests include, ongoing support of the U.S. military in Iraq. As a result of current and past missions, significant arrests and seizures have been made which have helped prevent terrorist and narcotic infiltration into the United States. Plans are currently being made to extend such operations into other countries in Central and South America

BORTAC is authorized a wide range of weapons systems such as: Beretta 96D in .40 S&W Brigadier Service Pistol, Heckler & Koch USP in .40 S&W, SIG P229 DAO 9x19mm Parabellum, Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun with 14″ barrel, M4A1 carbine, M16A1 or M16A2, M14 rifle 7.62mm NATO, HK UMP in .40 S&W, Remington 700 .308 rifle, M40 rifle XBKS .308 rifle, M79 grenade launcher, M203 grenade launcher, 37 mm gas guns, Heckler & Koch MP5, Heckler & Koch HK33A2, Heckler & Koch HK53 A2 or A3, and the Steyr SSG rifle. The Remington shotguns have been specially modified by Scattergun Technologies.

Border Patrol Agents wishing to become members of BORTAC must meet the following requirements:
• Have a minimum of three (3) years of continuous Border Patrol service in good standing
• Obtain a passing score of 90% or better on the Border Patrol Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB) & the firearms qualification course of fire (at least 324/360)
• Pass an oral interview panel conducted by current BORTAC members
• Successfully complete a BORTAC Selection Course
• Be available for extended deployment (90 days or more) anywhere anytime.
• Make proper application for consideration to HQ-BORTAC


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