Galveston’s modern-day cavalry taking on cartel operatives at the border

For the past three years, the small border community of Brackettville, Texas has been facing constant threats from cartel operatives and human smugglers. However, they have not been alone in this battle. Sheriff’s deputies from Galveston County have been providing assistance to the community consistently for the past 30 months. These deputies have been hailed as the modern-day cavalry, continuing the legacy of the cavalry that was initially stationed in the area over 150 years ago.

Pioneers who braved the wilds of west Texas to cultivate land and raise livestock persevered through countless generations, grappling with the harsh realities of nature, including severe droughts. They also faced the constant threat of attacks from Mexican bandits and Indian raids. In 1872, the Seminole-Negro Indian Scout Detachment, a newly formed unit of the U.S. Army, established a permanent settlement just two miles south of Fort Clark in Brackettville. Their extraordinary exploits in the Lower Pecos and Big Bend regions became the stuff of legends, with three scouts even receiving the prestigious Medal of Honor. The Scouts were hailed as “the very first border patrol to operate in the Big Bend region,” as documented by the U.S. Army Historical Foundation.

In 1867, the 9th and 10th Cavalries, consisting entirely of Black men, embarked on a mission to the western frontier. These units, known as the Buffalo Soldiers, undertook some of the most perilous and challenging tasks. The Buffalo Soldier Museum in Houston elaborates that the troopers earned this nickname as some sources claim that the Indians gave it because of their buffalo skin coats or their dark skin and curly hair. Alternatively, it is believed that the Indians regarded the black soldiers as resilient and valiant fighters, much like the buffalo.

Historians argue that the construction of tracks for the railroad, which connected the eastern U.S. to western territories, would not have been possible without the contributions of the Scouts and Buffalo Soldiers. These brave individuals played a vital role in guarding mail routes, escorting wagon trains, and protecting Texans from various threats, including outlaws, Mexican revolutionaries, Comanche, and other Indian tribes. Although they were separate groups, both the Scouts and Buffalo Soldiers explored vast stretches of wilderness in the West, helping to map the Southwest. Despite facing discrimination for many years, they fought, bled, and ultimately sacrificed their lives as true American war heroes.

In the autumn of 1942, the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers took up residence in Fort Clark’s Cavalry barracks in Brackettville. Throughout the duration of World War II, these barracks became the home of 182 enlisted African American women serving in the Woman’s Army Corps Detachment of the 1855th Service Unit.

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In August 2021, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset joined forces with Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe in Governor Greg Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star. Sheriff Trochesset became the pioneering Texas sheriff to consistently send deputies to Kinney County, a commitment he has upheld for the past 30 months. These dedicated deputies, hailing from diverse backgrounds, willingly volunteered to safeguard Brackettville. Over 65 deputies have signed up for more than 100 two-week tours since August 2021.

During interviews with The Center Square, we had the opportunity to speak with Deputy Andre Savage and Deputy Sharone Lewis, both of whom have volunteered and served in multiple tours at the border. Savage has participated in four missions, while Lewis has been involved in seven. When questioned about their reasons for returning so often, they simply stated, “It’s the people and the atmosphere.”

“It’s a whole new approach to policing with a unique purpose and a fresh perspective,” Savage expressed when referring to the law enforcement practices in Galveston County. This distinctive approach involves focusing on interdiction and actively searching for human smugglers, as Lewis explained. He further added, “On certain days, we might apprehend scouts, while on others, we might successfully apprehend smugglers. The outcome varies each day.”

Lewis was asked about the number of scouts they have caught, to which he responded, “Too many to count.” According to officials, scouts collaborate with coyotes to determine safe routes for people to avoid detection. They locate law enforcement officers, communicate their whereabouts and movements to other scouts, all to ensure that smugglers can evade capture.

According to Savage, scouts are often caught because they typically send someone to assess the situation and ensure it is safe before engaging in smuggling activities.

According to their statement, the scouts are capturing individuals from both American and non-American backgrounds.

“It’s a great combination. In some instances, they may be undocumented immigrants,” Lewis explained. “They come here in search of the same opportunities, briefly assess the situation, and then return to their home countries. On other occasions, they are American citizens.”

Savage revealed that the most astonishing aspect of the smuggling cases they have encountered is the age range of the individuals involved. He emphasized that it is not limited to a specific age group, as they have encountered teenagers and even elderly couples. However, the majority of the cases involve younger people. This observation highlights the alarming trend of younger individuals being involved in smuggling activities.

According to The Center Square, officials have clarified that young adults and teenagers are being enticed by social media advertisements that promise them the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars per carload by transporting individuals who have illegally entered the country. Texas recently passed a new bill that imposes stricter penalties of up to 10 years for human smuggling, which will come into effect on February 6, 2024. Governor Abbott, upon signing the bill into law, expressed concern over the escalating problem of human smuggling in Texas, stating that it has become uncontrollable. The number of human smuggling arrests in Texas has risen dramatically, from 370 in 2017 to 7,700 in 2023, representing an alarming increase of over 2,000%.

According to Savage, cartel operatives are actively using social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok to attract and target a younger demographic. They are even going as far as recruiting teenagers at malls.

According to Lewis, once the alleged smugglers and their passengers are apprehended, he takes the opportunity to inquire about their intended destinations. He shared that in the majority of cases, the response tends to be either Dallas, San Antonio, or Los Angeles.

According to their statement, they have chosen San Antonio as their first stop because it is conveniently located just a two-hour drive away from Brackettville.

“We are grateful to be a part of OLS,” they expressed, acknowledging sheriffs Trochesset and Coe for giving them the opportunity which they eagerly embraced.”

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