Imagine the sky is your office? That’s the view daily for an Air Interdiction Agent of the Air and Marine Operations, an elite team of agents from Customs and Border Protection that patrol and protect from all new heights.
“We provide a different view of the same traffic, that you couldn’t see otherwise,” said Stephen Jupe, a Supplemental Air Crew member with AMO. “We’re an assist to the ground agents, another tool to make the job a little bit easier. It’s a tough job, it’s a lot of area we cover, we are the force multipliers.”
Force multipliers that have eyes in the sky, 365 days a year.
“We’re trying to cover 24 hours, so there’s always a crew in the air,” said Lisa Rezende, an Air Interdiction Agent with AMO.
Not only searching for people but drugs as well.
“We can assist the agents when we detect the group for a smuggling case and we actually have eyes on it, we can put the aircraft in a position where we can stop them from escaping,” said Rezende.
And be the first ones there when things go wrong.
“We get a lot of 911 calls and there’s a good chance if we hadn’t gotten there they would’ve perished, dropping off water to them, locating them, where they might not have that chance if we didn’t exist,” said Jube.
With more than 500 pilots and 250 aircraft, this agency is the largest enforcement air force in the entire world.
So far this fiscal year, AMO agents have seized 12,000 pounds of cocaine and over 100 pounds of fentanyl, enough to kill over 26 million people.
“We’re here to serve the community and make it better,” said Rezende.
AMO pilots must go through an intense 20-week training where they learn Spanish, how to fly, maintenance on an aircraft and of course, how to spot and track illegal activity at high altitudes.
“It’s very exciting, every day is different.”
For these pilots, not even the sky is the limit and only the best land the job.
“It’s tough to get it, it’s highly desired,” said Jube.
The agents in the Rio Grande Valley seize more drugs, make more rescues and arrests than any other sector in the nation.
AMO was also selected to provide air security for the Super Bowl.