March

On the Border with Katie Griffith ’05

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Drugs. Guns. Illegal aliens. Throw in a few weapons of mass destruction and it’s a scene torn from Headline News. But for Katie Griffith, this type of life on the edge is just another day on the job, tending range on the nation’s perimeter as a United States Border Patrol agent.

Her perspective usually comes sitting atop a mount, something that is old hat to the Alvernia criminal justice alumna. Growing up in York, Pa., Griffith always rode horses. And since graduating in 2005, the only thing that has changed is the scenery — and the weapon strapped to her side.

Griffith knew that she wanted to work for the government right out of college, but wasn’t sure exactly which agency was right for her.

“I heard about Border Patrol on a radio commercial,” Griffith says. “I applied, and in the summer of 2006, was offered a station location in San Diego.” Griffith accepted the position and spent the next five months at an academy in Artesia, New Mexico, a fitting preamble to her career as a Border Patrol agent.

Little did she know what was in store. An average patrol day can run well beyond a 10-hour shift, depending on what the day brings: drugs, illegal aliens, assisting state or local law enforcement agencies. And there was certainly nothing average about pursuing a group of four Mexican nationals trying to cross the border illegally through “the swamp.” That’s where Griffith found herself on one particular afternoon.

“Vegetation is thick. The ground is muddy and radio communications are weak because of the leafy canopy above,” she explained. “I was alone and pursued the men into dense brush. Although I was continuously calling for backup, my radio couldn’t reach communications. “I was able to track them by their footprints and followed them through the mud.”

Finally discovering the group, Griffith commanded them to show their hands. When they didn’t comply, she asked them again. But it took a third time, and a show of force for them to obey.

“I knew I was on my own and outnumbered with no backup, so I drew my weapon and asked again to see their hands,” she explained. “Once they saw my gun, they knew I meant business.”

After five years in San Diego, Griffith went north, spending three years patrolling the Canadian border from her post at Massena Station in upstate New York. There, she gathered intelligence through community interaction and mobile surveillance.

“Agents are interested in illegal drugs, contraband, aliens or weapons of mass destruction,” says Griffith. Often, a northern investigation began with searching for vehicles registered to non-local cities. “The borders I patrolled were located on an Indian reservation, which has a reputation for drug and alien smuggling via the Saint Lawrence River.”

But the idyllic southern California climate soon called Griffith back to San Diego, where she is again riding the California countryside overlooking the swamp — and planning a September 2015 wedding.

“Border Patrol offers a great range of exciting opportunities from SWAT, search and rescue and marine operations, to ATVs, horse patrol, even undercover work,” says Griffith. You name, it, Border Patrol has it.

But, there is one catch. “You must be willing to live a life — on the border.”

>> Read more stories like this in Alvernia Magazine

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