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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Border Security

Adam Housley

Los Angeles, CA

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Federales in Training

April 22, 2010 - 11:17 AM | by: Adam Housley

Within a mile of the U.S./Mexico border, agents from both countries are in the midst of a politically sensitive operation that for the first time has Federales training with American officers. For my eight years covering this story here in southern Arizona this has been a question asked more than a few times, why isn’t there more cooperation and training together? Well, now there is an answer and we found that answer in Nogales, on the U.S. side.

The paint pellets snapped against the plywood targets echoing through the massive warehouse. Three Mexican police officers dressed in blue, lined shoulder to shoulder, sweep their rifles 180 degrees from left to right, following english and spanish instructions. American agents dressed in green are standing with them, providing instruction and demonstrating stances. An interpreter makes sure everyone is on the same page, as this close combat training continues throughout the day. Eventually agents from our side explain how to approach a building and then get in safely by providing cover on all sides, the Federales tell me they have never been shown any of this before.

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So far about 50 Mexican police officers have completed this three-week course and there are plans for the U.S. to help train several hundred more. Not only is this new found cooperation helping save lives of fellow law enforcement south of the border, it is also building new found lines of communication and friendship between the law enforcement international brotherhood. Now as one Federale tells me, “I know of a face and a name on the other side of the fence, maybe somebody I can call.”

Tom Pittman from the U.S. Border Patrol agrees and says, “There’s always been cooperation, but maybe tense cooperation, if you will but we’re getting to know each other as people.”

It’s a politically sensitive alliance intended to save lives and possibly lead to the creation of a Mexican counterpart to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Inside the wherehouse we see agents use M-4 rifles where the lower receiver is exactly like the one used in the field, but the upper receiver is a bit different and modified to shoot paint pellets for training purposes. The Federales are also being shown ways to detect contraband in hidden compartments, ATV practice racing across the Sonoran Desert and how to provide first responder medical aid in the desert.

According to Tom, “We’re very excited to do it, we’re helping brother cops that don’t have the opportunity, or haven’t had the opportunity yet to get this type of training, so we’re happy to help fellow cops stay alive, that’s for sure !”

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