Laredoans watching the sky at around 8:30 tonight may have seen some unusual activity. A formation of what looked to be five military helicopters, including a Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter, flew East over Central Laredo and landed near Laredo International Airport.
The accompanying photo was taken from Bartlett Avenue, west of the airport.
I’m still seeking details about the maneuvers conducted tonight. But the activity may have something to do with joint training operations involving Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Defense announced last week.
The office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said about 250 military personnel from the Defense Department’s Joint Task Force-North will take part in the training exercises. The U.S. government will coordinate the upcoming activities with Mexican authorities.
Last August, concerns were raised locally after a Mexican military helicopter mistakenly landed at Laredo International Airport.
The full July 5 press release from Cuellar’s office, which ran in Friday’s Laredo Morning Times, is below.
Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) announced his support for a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Department of Defense (DoD) joint training operation. South Texas residents can soon expect to see an increased law enforcement and military presence in the region as CBP and DoD join forces for this limited duration coordinated training operation. The joint-training venture will provide real-world training opportunities for DoD military personnel while also serving to enhance the Border Patrol’s ability to counter threats along the border.
“I welcome this training operation to South Texas and extend my best wishes to all CBP and DoD officials participating in this productive and beneficial exercise,” said Cuellar. “When it comes to securing our borders, it’s crucial that agencies collaborate to share information and skills, and I strongly support cooperative operations like the one CBP and DoD are embarking on together. This is a win-win situation that allows DoD personnel to gain valuable real-world training experience while also lending their specialized skills toward CBP’s mission of maintaining the strength of our border and the security of our communities.”
Communities in South Texas may see additional military personnel, vehicles and aircraft throughout the border region during this operation. Approximately 250 military personnel from the DoD’s Joint Task Force-North (JTF-North) will be participating in this training venture. The military personnel executing these missions operate strictly in a support capacity and will not be employed in a law enforcement role.
In addition to receiving training, DoD personnel will also benefit Border Patrol by enhancing Border Patrol’s ability to counter threats along the border by providing limited intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support to the Border Patrol.
DoD has regularly utilized training missions to support the nation’s federal law enforcement agencies since 1989. As with all CBP operations, this training operation will be closely coordinated with the Government of Mexico.