The National Guard began assisting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in support of Operation Phalanx in 2010 with ground troops. In 2012, the mission switched to an aviation focused support. The National Guard supports the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo Border Patrol Sectors, encompassing a 135,439 square-mile area.
The National Guard’s mission is to conduct aerial detection and monitoring to disrupt Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) and Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) in support of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). National Guardsmen supporting Operation Phalanx provide air-centric operations as augmentation to CBP as they increase capability with personnel and technology. The National Guard has a long history of enduring relationships with local, state and federal agencies in conducting DHS missions. Since 1917, horse cavalry units were sent to protect the southern borders of the U.S., and the National Guard has defended the U.S. southern border and continues to do so today.
In July 2014, Gov. Rick Perry activated the Texas Military Forces to work with the Texas Department of Public Safety conducting operations along the Texas-Mexico border in support of Operation Strong Safety.
The Texas Military Forces’ mission is to directly support Texas DPS in combating pervasive criminal elements operating along the border and to prevent them from crossing over into the U.S. by enhancing security efforts through the visible presence on the ground and along the Rio Grande River, working alongside commissioned law enforcement officers to detect and prevent criminals from infiltrating through the international border, and helping to ensure the safety of the citizens of Texas.
On May 8, 1916, units from Texas, Arizona and New Mexico were called into service for missions along the United States border. Following the approval of the National Defense Act, Guard units form the remaining states for support along the border. Known as the Pancho Villa Expedition, or as the Mexican Expedition in the United States, it was a military operation conducted by the United States Army against the paramilitary forces of Mexican revolutionary Francisco "Pancho" Villa from 1916 to 1917 during the Mexican Revolution. The more than 110,000 troops were on constant alert as border raids were still an occasional nuisance. The Mexican Expedition was an excellent training environment for the officers and men of the National Guard, who were recalled to federal service later that same year for duty in World War I. In fact, many National Guard leaders in both World Wars traced their first federal service to the Mexican Expedition.
Additionally, the National Guard has taken part in numerous iterations of border missions since 2006, when President George W. Bush coordinated with Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico governors to place 6,000 National Guardsmen on the border. Their mission, called Operation Jump Start, would be to augment the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency by providing both ground and aerial personnel and intelligence analysts to help curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking. This mission ended in 2008.
Two years later, President Barack Obama funded an additional border mission. At that time, the Army National Guard (ARNG) established Operation Phalanx in July 2010, authorizing up to 1,200 Soldiers and Airmen along the 1,933-mile southwest border in support of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. The Texas component became called Operation River Watch, in which Guardsmen provided both intelligence analysts and ground support to the Border Patrol until Feb. 2012.
In March 2012, the mission transitioned to River Watch II which currently provides the U.S. Customs and Border Protection approximately 500 hours a month of aviation support and criminal analyst support. Under Operation River Watch II, National Guardsmen from various states across the nation oversee and participate in the on-going mission.