Making the Cut
Becoming a BORTAC operative is a phased process that begins with an employment solicitation from the Border Patrol Special Operations Group based in El Paso, Texas.
To qualify to apply, prospective BORTAC operators must first attend the Border Patrol Academy and become border patrol agents. After several years in good standing, they may then choose to pursue the Border Patrol Operator path.
Later, comes an interview, along with physical fitness and firearms proficiency phases. If the agents meet the standard requirements—and there are spots available on the BORTAC roster— they’re invited to endure the BORTAC Selection Course.
“It is very physical, it’s very arduous and it’s very long. During that phase, they’re trying to see if you have the attributes to be on the unit,” reported a special operations supervisor and BORTAC commander who has been with the border patrol since 1994.
The course begins with physical testing involving a 1½ mile run, sprints, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and pistol qualification. The three- to five-week challenge continues with team-building scenarios and physical training, with the goal of determining whether the candidate has the characteristics required in a BORTAC operative.
“The BORTAC Operators Training Course is very specific on team building and the physical part of dealing with problem solving,” the commander said, noting that at this phase, the candidates go through very little firearms training. “We save some of the skill portion for later on, but we need to first see if this person even has the attributes that the unit wants.”
Several months after the individuals graduate, they go to the next phase, which is called the BORTAC Operator Certification Course. This is when the technical aspects of the job—including firearms skills—are taught, practiced and implemented.
After successfully completing the course, the new BORTAC agent returns to his sector and works alongside other operators while learning advanced techniques in weapons and tactics.