LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - We've covered their deployments overseas and their storm assistance missions here in Arkansas. But, in this THV 11 Extra, we're giving you a different view of the Arkansas National Guard. It's one from above the border, helping fight illegal crossings from Mexico into Texas.
The mission is called "Task Force Razorback." It's a special unit led by the Arkansas National Guard, giving U.S. Border Patrol a set of eyes in the sky while fighting these illegal crossings. THV 11's Max Seigle recently had a chance to catch up with the commanding officer and a pilot, who were both back on Arkansas turf getting a taste of the home-front before heading back to the border.
"This is Christopher Abel Heart, he was born last Thursday," said Captain Chris Hart.
Armed with his baby boy, Captain Chris Hart enjoyed some family time back home in Benton. He's a helicopter pilot with the Arkansas National Guard and came home recently for the birth of his child. He left behind a mission that many Arkansans may not be aware of.
"You're looking at a view from our aircraft assisting border patrol. You've got bodies hidden underneath that tree there," Captain Hart said, showing us video of the unit's work from the skies.
The Arkansas National Guard provided us video of "Task Force Razorback" in action. You can view it in its entirety by clicking on the video link below.
"It's extremely dark out there, and of course, with our night vision goggles and our camera system, it's bright on. We can see," Captain Hart said.
The task force, working the skies over the Texas-Mexico border at night, sends information to U.S. border patrol agents on the ground. Those agents then go after those trying to cross illegally.
"Then you have the bodies that are fleeing the area. At that point, we will maintain on scene and help the agents," Captain Hart said.
"We operate within their needs. When they need us, we're up," Major David Cooper said.
Major Cooper, from Glen Rose, is the commanding officer for Task Force Razorback, which also includes Guard members from other states, but this is the first time the Arkansas National Guard leads this border patrol assistance.
"You can usually tell when they see us or they know we are there. They will what we call 'bed up.' In other words, they will lay down. They will cover up under brush thinking that we may not be able to see them, and that's when we're able to walk the border patrol agents up to them," Major Cooper said.
On any given day, as many as 30 Arkansans will be a part of this patrol. Captain Hart said the number of "illegals" spotted from above ranges "from one to three to 30 or 40. It varies."
From its vantage point, the Guard doesn't know who these people are or what they're doing. But when they catch them, Captain Hart said, "Border patrol will take them out to their vehicles, take them into custody and transport them to an unknown location, I'm not sure where."
"It is tough being away from home, but it is a gratifying mission that we are aiding in the security of the nation," Major Moore said.
"I am looking forward to getting back down there and performing that mission but am looking forward to getting home too," Captain Hart said.
It was a mixed bag of emotions for these Arkansas soldiers, relishing time on the home front before the "skies" come calling.
This unit started its mission on the border in January. Right now it's slated to last for a year, but that's not set in stone. Major Cooper has already headed back. Captain Hart leaves Thursday.
Task Force Razorback is based in Laredo, Texas. It also includes soldiers on the ground, who maintain helicopters and a heat-sensing devise aboard what's known as a flir system.