Why Did a Mexican Army Patrol Detain and Disarm Two US Soldiers Inside of the United States

Ejercito Mexicano by Christian Frausto Bernal, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

Ejercito Mexicano by Christian Frausto Bernal, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

Sometimes there are stories that appear that make you believe that our government is convinced it is dealing with a bunch of idiots who, if they serve up baby poo and tell us it’s butterscotch, we’ll grab a big spoon and start eating it.


For years there have been stories floating of incursions by the Mexican military into US territory. In 2007, the Border Patrol reported 42 instances of the Mexican Army crossing into the United States. In 2008, the US Border Patrol arrested seven Mexican soldiers after their armed HMMWV broke down inside the US (source). In 2014, Duncan Hunter looked into the situation of Mexican troops violating US territory:

Armed Mexican troops and police regularly stray across the U.S. border, according to statistics the Department of Homeland Security provided to Congress on Tuesday that indicate more than 500 of them have jumped the border in the past decade.

Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, that, in many of those cases, the armed Mexican military or law enforcement personnel ended up in confrontations with American authorities, and 131 people were detained.

There has been a lot of speculation on why this is and a suspicion that much of it is due to some factions in the Mexican Army being in the employ of drug cartels and escorting drugs into the US. The scenarios are all the same. Border Patrol agents observe Mexican troops crossing the border. The observe and intercept the crossers. In some instances they detain the soldiers and let the stripey pants people sort it out. Now we have a story which not only breaks the model of these encounters but the story, itself, just makes no sense. This is the best account I’ve found as it actually answers the old 5Ws journalists were once taught comprised a lede paragraph.


Two U.S. Army soldiers sat in an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe owned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the west side of an El Paso County, Texas, Colonia known as Las Pampas.

It was April 13, and the Army sergeant and private had set up a hasty observation post north of the Rio Grande River, but south of the border fence in U.S. territory. The soldiers were members of B Battery, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

The unit, part of the southwest border mission President Donald Trump first ordered in October 2018, recently had their deployment extended to September.

At roughly 2:00 p.m. local time, the soldiers observed five to six individuals dressed in green pixelated military camouflage uniforms and carrying weapons, which appeared to be FX-05 Xiuhcoatl, an assault rifle designed and built for the Mexican armed forces.

The armed men swiftly approached the U.S. service members, crossing over from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River into U.S. territory, ordering the soldiers out of their vehicle at gunpoint.

What transpired on that afternoon of April 13 near the small town of Clint, Texas, underscores the confusion between the physical location of the border fence and where the geographical U.S.-Mexico border begins and ends.

Newsweek adds this color:

The U.S. soldiers said the Mexican soldiers moved tactically fast on their U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) vehicle, which was unmarked. The Army soldiers did not have enough reaction time to activate a 911 emergency on their Shout Nano, a cellphone-sized, two-way GPS tracking device that also doubles as an emergency beacon when soldiers are in need of additional military units.

The U.S. service members reported hearing someone from the south side yell vámonos in Spanish. The Mexican soldiers went back to their vehicle, described as a “dark blue Ford pickup truck with a tactical rack in the back.” The Ford pickup departed the area, heading westbound on the Mexican levee.

Once on-site, the CBP agents backtracked the footprints of the Mexican military members and determined the individuals entered U.S. territory about 50 feet north of the Rio Grande, the report said. Members of 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, responded to the location to check on the well-being of their fellow soldiers.


Newsweek was able to get the exact northing and easting from the after action report. This is where the event took place:

The Google Earth imagery dates from 2008, but this is what the terrain looks like. This the Steetview image at the point Newsweek identified and is facing the Mexican border.

Google Maps, http://bit.ly/2W1FDEj

Keep in mind, this location now has the border fence just behind it.

The Mexican troops dismounted their truck, crossed the Rio Grande and easily identifiable drainage ditch, and moved on the unmarked CBP vehicle. You really can’t do that and plausibly claim that you didn’t know where the border was unless this was seven Mexican second lieutenants on a land navigation course. There just aren’t that many rivers there.

The incident took place in good visibility at 2 p.m. Take a good look at the terrain. How much cover do you see?

This is a Shout Nano. You can see the emergency button at #6.

Imagine yourself at a vehicular observation post at 2 p.m. How do a squad of Mexican soldiers on foot get to you so fast you can’t push the emergency beacon activator? I got nothing that doesn’t involve sleeping or gross inattention.

Anyway, both sides have agreed on the fictionalized account of what happened and seem to be happy. No one was hurt, no animals were abused. But the questions of why the Mexican troops crossed the border in that manner remains? And the question of the standard of discipline within Army units on the border needs to be brought front and center by someone with multiple stars.


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