Advanced Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2002
Minuteman Civil Defense Corps: my after-action report
As you all know, I spent 5 days (4 nights) as a volunteer with the Minutemen last weekend down on the Texas border. This is mostly a copy/paste from a report I wrote elsewhere. It should give you a fair idea of what we're up against.
For starters, I want to say I am HONORED to have served with the Minutemen for the past 5 days. I have never been around a better group of people. They are devoted to our cause and there is a certain honor there that I simply can't put into words. I met people from all over the country, all of whom stated that this isn't just a Texas problem or a "border problem". It is a national crisis, and they only wished that they could do more. As do I. This organization is truly an expression of our liberties, where citizens can volunteer to get together for our common defense. We are not taking the law into our own hands; we are simply assisting law enforcement. But it feels very much like what I imagine the original Minutemen felt like in the days before the Revolution. We are all volunteers, making personal sacrifices to do what we think is right when the "powers that be" won't. It's one thing to join an organization that is purely political in nature, and send them money in the mail or write letters to politicians. That is all fine and dandy. But this group puts boots on the ground and takes ACTION. And I'm absolutely awed by the commitment I see in the eyes of the volunteers.
Even the organizers of this activity are volunteers, donating their time and money and equipment to it. They are not professional law enforcement people. The man who was in charge of the Nueces Strip (his radio call sign is Ear Tick, so I'll refer to him by that name here), that we all operated under, is a regular guy like us who has a regular job and is using next year's vacation to spend the whole month down there.
It's kind of comical in a way, working in an all volunteer organization like this. There is very little discipline, and a lot of people are just trying to figure out what the heck they're doing. There was some frustration on my part due to the undisciplined/uncoordinated efforts of some of the volunteers (mostly the yuppie type city folks who have probably never actually spent the night outside before), but in the end I was appreciative of all their efforts and I realized that everyone was doing the best they could.
And I also want to tip my hat to "Doc", the owner of the ranch where our base camp was located. This man is one of the most honorable people I've ever met. He is putting himself, his family, and his land at risk by letting us operate there. The coyotes know who he is, and will surely seek retribution once we're gone. He even risks legal action against himself if any of us volunteers do something stupid. He could lose his ranch over this. But he knows that and is willing to take that risk. It's that much of a problem. He was a constant presence at base camp, mingling with the volunteers and helping organize everything while still doing his "day job" of running the ranch. And a huge ranch it is! Thousands and thousands of acres with cattle spread all over it.
Anyway, my brother (Azradok) and I met up early Thursday morning and drove in together for our 0800 orientation and training. They explained to us where we were and where we would be operating, as well as going over all the SOP stuff that we should have already known from the manuals. Then after training was over, Azradok and I volunteered to ride with Ear Tick who is the HNIC of this operation. We spent about 3 hours with him in his jeep to search for tracks and see where the illegal foot traffic was getting through our lines from the previous night. This is part of the constant cat-and-mouse game we play with the coyotes. They test our lines and adjust their traffic to avoid us. We search for where they're getting through and adjust our lines to catch them.
As we drove around with Ear Tick, the first thing I noticed was the trash. It was everywhere. Mostly water jugs. The coyotes and their people will leave water jugs all over the place for the illegals. So every time we would see one, we would pour out the water, crush the jug, and throw it in the jeep. We checked out all their typical spots where they come through the property. They have holes dug under fences. They have paths worn into the ground so deep that it looks like a herd of buffalo went through there single-file. In some places, the sand was polished smooth like glass from the foot traffic going through there. They have crawl holes everywhere and a very extensive network of locations to sneak through.
Just to give you some background, here's the deal: we were not actually ON the border. In fact, we were about 60 miles from the border. As bad as it was here, I cannot even imagine what it must be like at the border itself. We were operating on ranches on either side of a main highway that comes north from the border. The coyotes will get their "customers" across the border and then transport them up the highway to just south of our location. There is a border patrol checkpoint on the highway there. So the coyotes dump their people off on the side of the road south of the checkpoint and expect them to hike through private property around the checkpoint, for pickup somewhere north. That's why we are operating where we are. We're trying to catch the illegals as they're hiking through private ranches to meet back up with their coyotes. And in some (most?) cases, the coyotes travel with them as guides through the country. In other cases, the coyotes simply pick them back up somewhere north of the border patrol checkpoint if the people manage to make their way through the countryside OK.
So the illegals usually have a plan of where they're going to get picked up. A lot of the time, they're supposed to get to their pickup point and hang an item of clothing on the fence or in a tree as a signal that they're in position for pickup. So if you're driving along and see a shirt and a bra on a fence, that means there are illegals hiding in the bushes there waiting for pickup. So as we were riding along with Ear Tick, we would stop and take the clothing off the fence. Every day the Minutemen would send people out on a "laundry run" for the express purpose of picking up the clothing, so as to deny people their signals for pickup. When Ear Tick would go over to get the clothing, he would ask me to be ready to cover him with my sidearm just in case someone popped up out of the bushes with a bad attitude. In other cases the illegals are just supposed to meet their coyotes at a certain place at a certain time for pickup. There is a roadside park (rest area) on the highway just beside the ranch where our base camp was. So this is a very popular place for illegals to meet back up with their coyotes.
Azradok and I spent 3 hours checking the crawl holes, road crossings, and fences for footprints and laundry and trash. We would sweep the areas clear of footprints so as to be able to identify fresh prints the next day. And let me tell you, that is a LOT of work! Especially as large as the area is. Just on one of the ranches, we were trying to cover 90 square miles. That's almost 60,000 acres! Well, we got back from doing that and we now had a fairly decent idea of what we're getting into. So Azradok and I went over to the designated primitive campsite for volunteers (about 15 miles away) to set up camp. We got that all squared away and headed back to Minuteman base camp for our 1700 briefing before going out on night duty. We find our assignments for the night. Azradok is on line 3 and I'm on line 2.
My first night out, I spent on line 2 post 16. The last post on that line. It was the post that had been overrun by illegals in the early days of the month. Literally, the Minutemen that were stationed there got overrun by illegals and had to retreat back to post 13 for their own safety. So I was a bit nervous. But I had my sidearm with me and I was stationed with two other guys, one of which was the line supervisor. So we set up in three separate spots for maximum viewing coverage. It was a long night and I was tired. By midnight, I was very cold and was starting to fall asleep at my post. Thank God it was a quiet night at post 16. I could have had a whole gaggle of illegals run right over me when I was dozing off. The only thing that kept me semi-awake was the constant buzz of mosquitoes in my ears, the regular radio traffic in my earpiece, and my nervousness at being there. Every crunch of the grass, every noise in the distance had me spooked. Let me tell you, being in the middle of this country knowing that people are marching through under cover of darkness will have you on edge your first night. Especially when you factor in the numerous packs of coyotes (the canine type, not the human type) that are everywhere. I was freakin' surrounded by them. Some of them were howling and yipping just a couple hundred yards away from me, and I of course didn't have a rifle or anything. I'm used to the sound of coyotes in the distance, but not this close. And then you hear a noise of something moving through the grass and get all excited, only to see a cow. One of my partners that night saw about 5 wild hogs just a few yards from him. He also nearly got trampled by 3 cows when I accidentally spooked them in the dark and they stampeded his direction. But I made it through the night, dead tired and relieved that I didn't have to face any hordes of illegals running through my position.
So we went back to the campsite and crashed after shift was over. I was disappointed at not seeing any illegals, but a little bit relieved at the same time. I wanted to make sure I was familiar with everything before sighting anyone. I learned a lot that first night about how they work the radio system, with their hourly radio checks of each station and how to report sightings and coordinate with Border Patrol. And by listening to all the radio traffic and remembering the maps posted at base camp, I got a very good idea of how the illegal traffic moves and how our volunteers handle the situations. That first night, line 2 post 9 had a group of 12 come right past them. They also had two children approach them and surrender because they were cold and thirsty and didn't have any jackets or water. Our SOP is to not involve ourselves other than to call BP and let them handle it. We are pretty sure, though, that these children were sent out as "bait" by the coyotes to locate our positions and measure our response. They could possibly even have been a diversion while another large group of illegals sneaked through. These people have no scruples and will do anything.
The second night out, I was moved down to line 2 post 13. It had been quiet the last few nights, and since I was a CHL I was in charge of that post (there is at least one CHL on every post, for safety). I figured it would be relatively quiet there. So we set up at our post, which is at the intersection of a caliche ranch road and a pipeline easement. We had set up in front of some trees along the pipeline, where we could see both the road and the pipeline corridor. It got dark about 1930 and the moon wouldn't be up until about 2200. So it was good and dark. And I mean DARK. The Milky Way was beautiful and brilliant, there were shooting stars everywhere. I couldn't see jack, even with my night vision, except for about 100 feet in front of me while using the IR illuminator. My long range vision was just shot. So I put away my NVG for the time being and decided to just rely on my ears. My partner and I were both looking west along the road and (stupidly) ignoring the pipeline for the moment. It was about 2030, the moon wasn't up yet and it was very dark. Suddenly, we hear noise to our left (south) on the pipeline corridor. Holy crap! 8 illegals heading right toward us, only about 20 yards from us. We both froze. The group of "travelers" marched right by us and never saw us. Much later in the night, I stepped off the distance where they had crossed in front of us. They had passed within 12 feet of our position and never saw us. I literally could have spit on them, that's how close they were. And we were sitting IN FRONT of the treeline! The reason they didn't see us is twofold. First, it was so dark. Second, I don't think they had a coyote with them. They were all dressed in a rag-tag manner but had dark shirts and light colored pants.
Let me take a second to explain their dress. This is typical of the coyotes and their illegal customers. They wear dark shirts so their torsos don't stand out as well at night when they're standing in waist-high grass. But they wear light colored pants so the people behind them can see their legs. When they walk through the countryside, they follow each other very closely, single-file, and stare at the legs of the person in front of them. This way, they don't get lost or separated. They expect the lead person (usually a coyote) to know where he's going. Their job is simply to keep their head down and looking at the legs in front of them and just walk. This is exactly what they were doing when they passed in front of us. The lead man obviously didn't have night vision or he would have seen us. And they were just following the pipeline corridor, which leads to town about 8 miles away. So all they had to do was walk toward the glow of town. Well, with adrenaline pumping, I radioed them in to base camp, who in turn contacted BP. In fact, BP was already on the property over on line 2 post 6 where they had spotted a group of 3 illegals a few minutes earlier. So BP told us they would round up those 3 then come look for our 8. That never happened. Ours got away. That had me keyed up the rest of the night, and I had no problems staying awake, that's for sure! My confidence in my ability to hear them coming was shattered. They were very quiet. So I knew I'd have to keep vigilant with not only hearing but with my limited sight as well. Looking back, it was a surreal experience. Those illegal aliens could very well have veered just 12 feet over and tripped over me, which could have gotten ugly real quick. Since they had sneaked up on me, and it was my first up-close experience with them, I didn't have the presence of mind to grab a flashlight to light them up. Heck, I didn't even have time to cover my sidearm. It put a spook into me and from there on out, I focused on constant vigilance and safety. After our shift was over at 0300, my partner and I filled out our incident reports and were commended by the staff for doing it right. Observe, report, direct, and stand down. Do not confront. I guess we had done it right, but it sure didn't feel like it. We were both pretty shaken up about it and were just trying to stay safe by remaining hidden and then calling for the cavalry once they had passed.
The third night I was moved again to line 2 post 9, stationed with my brother Azradok. Again, I was the designated CHL for that post and responsible for both of our safety. So I insisted that we stay close to each other after the previous night's scare. We were on the same ranch road near another pipeline crossing. It was another quiet night with no sightings on our post. However, they did have a group of 25 illegals almost overrun 2/16 where I had been stationed the first night. I was wishing I had been back down there in the action. The 25 illegals almost overran their position so they lit them up with flashlights and the illegals hunkered down in the grass. BP raced past our position at 2/9 heading toward 2/16. Then BP came back a while later and turned up the pipeline right-of-way at our post, trying to cut north in front of the illegals. A while later, BP came back down the pipeline and turned back onto the road at our post, heading back to 2/16 still trying to find the bogies. In fact, the BP stopped right in front of us to check out their vehicle because they had something caught underneath their front wheels that they picked up on the pipeline right-of-way. A while later, BP came back toward our position, and this time they spotted us. They shined their headlights on us for a minute or so as they were probably radioing to our base camp to check us out. I'll bet they were talking to each other in their truck saying "how many times did we drive past these guys and not know they were there?" We thought it was kinda funny that they drove within a few feet of us 3 times and never saw us, only catching us on their 4th pass. And keep in mind, this was the ONLY tree out there (a rather small and wimpy mesquite tree), and we were hunkered down in the middle of it as best we could. The concealment wasn't very good, but it was the best we could do without having to lay in the sand and weeds with the snakes, scorpions, ticks, and other creepy crawlers. We had parked Azradok's SUV in another stand of trees a few hundred yards away and covered it up with a tarp to keep the moonlight from reflecting off of it. I don't think BP ever saw it. Later that night, the fog rolled in pretty thick and we couldn't see through it with our night vision. We did hear a lot of noise, though, in the grass. But with all the mooing going on, it had to have been cattle.
Azradok left that night after we got off duty to drive back to Houston. I headed back to camp for some shut-eye. Next morning, I packed up camp early and headed back to the base to sign up for the laundry run that afternoon. I was planning on doing the laundry run, then pull the night shift and drive back home at 3am when I got off. Well, there weren't enough people signed up to warrant a laundry run so I ended up driving out with Ear Tick again. We had a new plan to catch some of these illegals that had been slipping by line 3 where Azradok had spent his first two nights. There are several petroleum storage tanks along the pipeline out there, and we wanted to put two posts on top of two of those tanks for a better view. So we drove out to look at the tanks and decide which ones to use. While we were out there, we spotted a vehicle sitting next to the road down in a hollow spot. We drove over to check it out. There was a female driver and a male passenger in it. Ear Tick seemed to believe it was the same female (a coyote) who had been operating in there recently, and she had gotten a new car. We checked with the land owner, and he said she works for him. She claims that place is the only part of the ranch where she can get cell phone coverage, so she sits there to talk on her phone. Yeah, right. A low spot is the only place she can get a cell signal? So we drove right past them very slowly, got a good description of the vehicle and passengers, and called it in to base. Then we turned around and drove past them again just to let them know we knew what was up, and drove off into the distance. Once out of sight, we whipped around off road and circled back behind them, parked in another low spot, and crawled up into a stand of trees to watch them for a while. We knew they were there to pick up some illegals coming onto the ranch before sunset when they knew our lines would be manned.
The passenger was nervous. He was looking all around him, freaking out. He had tried to play it cool when we drove past him, waving to us and giving us a friendly "hey", but after we drove out of sight, he was all kinds of nervous. So we watched them for a while, hoping to see them picking up some illegals. But it was getting late and we had to get back to base camp for the 1700 briefing and duty assignments, so we left. I'm sure they ended up driving out the front gate with a trunk full of people. It was one of those situations where there wasn't enough evidence to call BP. We would have had to wait until we physically saw them gather up some illegals, and we just didn't have time.
After briefing at 1700, but before we started the caravans out to the lines, Rooster notified us that we were holding everyone for a while. One of our volunteers, an ex-Marine and special-forces kind of guy (to be honest, this guy scares me; he's the type of guy who can make you disappear and no one will ever know but him, and he's perfectly willing to do it) had found what he thought "might" be a land mine. It was a circular piece of metal planted in the ground next to a crawl hole. It took him a while to safely get it out of the ground and determine what it was. It ended up being a metal can full of wet dirt. Strange. It hadn't been there the day before, but had been carefully planted there in the previous 24 hours. It had something scratched onto the top of the can, but I don't know what it was. Anyway, the false alarm delayed our deployment. So we all caravaned out to our posts. I was partnered with an older woman who is a HAM radio operator. Despite my first impression of her, she is one hell of a woman and I'd share a foxhole with her any day. She's my kind of people... home-schooled her kids, doesn't trust government, she even owns an SKS! And she's old enough to be my mother! I was impressed.
Anyway, since we were late getting out to our post, it was getting dark by the time we got set up. There weren't any trees around the tanks, so we parked my truck in a little hollow spot in the tall weeds and covered the top with a tarp and some camouflage netting that I borrowed from base camp. Then we ascended the metal stairs to the catwalk up on top of the tanks. We were just settling in, it was about 1930, and I fired up the gen-3 night vision that they had checked out to me at base camp for the first time. This was GREAT! My gen-1 monocular is like looking through the bottom of a Coke bottle at best. This gen-3 scope (it was actually an M-14 rifle scope) was like looking through a spotting scope. Excellent visibility, excellent illumination, excellent clarity. We clearly had the best view in the whole operation from our perch. So anyway, I had just fired it up for the first time and was doing a preliminary scan when I spotted a group of 12 illegals just to the southwest of us, heading up the power line right-of-way. My partner, Tokyo (her call sign), was still setting up her antenna for her ham radio. So we hurriedly called it in. Our GMRS radios had poor communications at that range, so she had to really scurry to get the ham radio set up. The group of 12 started to veer towards us, and we were wondering whether we needed to bug out. Last thing I wanted to do was get trapped by a group of hostiles on an elevated (exposed) position where I couldn't get away, trying to defend myself and a woman against superior numbers. But thankfully, the travelers were just adjusting their line and continued to head north up the power line right of way behind us. I lost sight of them behind the tanks and didn't want to crawl over the tops of the tanks for fear of making noise on the metal roof and give myself away. So I moved along the catwalk until I could see between two of the tanks. And that's when I got a REAL good look at them.
This group had 2 coyotes. One in front, leading, with 5 men behind him. Then another (female) coyote with 5 men behind her. The coyotes were dressed in typical fashion: dark shirts and light pants. But all the men they were leading were dressed exactly alike. Not rag-tag fashion like the first group I had seen two nights ago. They were all wearing what looked like BDUs. Camouflage pants, black boots. BDU tops, buttoned up, with black hats. Not hats with a bill in front, though. Either black berets or it could have just been their hair (they all, of course, would have had black hair since they were Hispanic). I did not observe any weapons or gear that they were carrying. But all the males were dressed the exact same way and looked different than the other illegals I had seen. They were all between 18-25 years old, clean shaven, with short hair, and in good physical condition. All were alert, looking around, scanning for movement as they walked. They weren't doing the shuffle that I had seen a few nights previous. They weren't looking at the pair of legs in front of them. They were looking around. These people did not move like regular illegals. They did not look like regular illegals. I don't know what their story was, but I didn't like it. At the time, of course, I didn't click to the fact that they had two coyotes. But later on, after I wrote up my incident report and did my debriefing, Rooster and Ear Tick seemed to agree that they had two coyotes. One leading the first 5 and another leading the second 5. If trouble occurred, they would split up, giving half of them the chance to get through. They thought this was odd too, and must have cost a LOT of money on the part of the illegals trying to get through. Anyway, BP was called but took 30 minutes to get there. To my knowledge, they were never caught. The rest of the night was pretty quiet. It was colder than hell up there, especially with a cold front blowing in. The wind kept threatening to blow our gear off that tiny narrow catwalk. We couldn't hear anything due to the wind, and that gen-3 scope was the only thing we had going for us. But we didn't see anything else that night. Between that set of tanks and another that we had set up across the way, we could see anybody moving for miles.
So I drove home after that shift, wishing I could stay out there until the end of the month and hoping that everyone there stays safe and does some good. I had an absolute BLAST out there and felt like I was just one cog in a machine that needs more cogs. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to devote myself in the next few months to recruiting everybody I can to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. When I go back in March or April (this will be the next full month of operations, although it sounds like they may do some weekends on those ranches between now and then), I want to show up with at least 20 people. I want to man those lines and shut down the illegals cold. I want to be able to say that no one got through while we were there, without us knowing about it.
So I'm sharing my story with you guys and hoping you can get riled up about it enough to join us. It was a very fun and enjoyable experience, first off. It's kinda like hunting camp in a way. But with more of a purpose. I met some GREAT people, and didn't come across one single person that I would say was there for the wrong reasons. The media is portraying us as a bunch of ignorant racist rednecks, and nothing could be further from the truth. I met people with graduate degrees as well as people who do hourly physical labor. All walks of life were represented there, all income brackets. And everyone was friendly, knowledgeable, and dedicated. I met people from Wisconsin, Maryland, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, and a lot of other States that I don't even remember. It was truly a mix of all Americans who were concerned enough to stand up and do something.
What we need, though, is more people to get off their butts and do something. We need boots on the ground. Don't just send money. Don't just write letters. Get out there with us and take action. You'll have a great experience that you'll carry with you forever. You'll make new friends and get to talk to people who feel the same way you do. And when you do that small part that helps the Border Patrol nab just a few illegals, you'll feel like you're part of the solution. But most importantly, you'll see first-hand what it's like. You'll see the well-worn paths that these foreign invaders use to trespass on private land as they sneak under cover of darkness into our country. You'll see the trash they leave behind, the damage they do. You'll see how understaffed the Border Patrol really is and how hard they work.
While I'm at it, I'm going to tip my hat to the Border Patrol as well. While I did not have any direct contact with them, I simply observed them in action. These guys have a hard job. Hunting down illegals in the dark is difficult. Especially when you're going by second-hand information that may be up to an hour old when you get there. These illegals scatter like cockroaches when they see anyone coming, and it's hard for the BP to sneak up on them. Then they have the unpleasant task of having to go out there and "get dirty" arresting the illegals. You never know if the coyote is going to be armed or not, or if the illegals are going to fight back or do something stupid. It's a dangerous job. They need more people and better equipment. There's a real technology war going on out here, as well as a simple war of who can be smarter. The Border Patrol deserves our help and our support as much as we can give it to them. They are perhaps one of the few Federal agencies that I fully agree with and wish them all the luck in the world.
I'm told that the coyotes make anywhere from $1500 to $2000 per person that they sneak over. So in one night's time, they are making anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the size of the group they escort across. With that kind of money, they are very well organized and very well equipped. They are using radios to monitor our activity. They are probably listening to the Border Patrol's radio traffic as well. They have cell phones. They have GPS and they've marked every waypoint in the area. So they can travel quite easily in the dark by simply following their GPS. And they have night vision. Many of our volunteers reported being temporarily blinded while using night vision scopes, by coyotes who would step out onto the road and "illuminate" the area with their own night vision scopes' IR illuminators. So the Minuteman volunteers as well as the Border Patrol are facing a very well funded enemy here.
So, that's it for my report. Hope you enjoyed the story. And I hope it encourages people to volunteer! We need more people, we need funding through the Minuteman Project to buy more night vision and radio equipment, and we need political support. We need private pilots to run air patrols (the MMCDC will provide fuel money so you're basically able to log flight hours for free). But when I go back for the next full-scale operation, I want to come with a lot of people.