Customs training at JBB facilitates efficient drawdown

Story and photos by Sgt. David A. Scott
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) sponsored a customs and border clearing agent training program June 23 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

The program—hosted in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Transportation Command—was conducted in an effort to alleviate the potential challenges to the agricultural inspection and homeland security systems in the United States, as a result of significant movements expected to be involved with the upcoming responsible drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Duane Crosby, a supervisory agent with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency of DHS, said the course was about helping service members learn the basic competencies of customs and border protection.

The seminar taught U.S. military personnel how to inspect, certify and pre-clear military travelers, their gear and equipment during the return to the United States or Europe.

About 120 Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen attended the two-day CBCA certification class conducted in the base theater.

Crosby discussed a variety of topics relevant to service members, including terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, citizenship and immigration documentation, carry-on and checked baggage.

“The mechanics of this course are all about getting people in this class in a position to do the job I do on a daily basis,” Crosby said.  “Whether it is airport or seaport, it is about doing the customs inspection job.  The more people understand the rules and regulations the better, because technicalities get (illegal) stuff released.”

The goal of inspecting cargo, personnel and aircraft, vessels, containers and equipment is to protect the American public from a host of dangers, including exotic diseases, he said.

Crosby said having the military go through the program is a cost-effective and cost-efficient way of accomplishing program objectives for all parties involved, especially DHS.

“Trust me, if you had to send a bunch of customs inspectors over here, it would cost (too) much money,” he said. “We do not have enough manpower to do it, nor is there a budget around to support a mission of this size. This is why we train Soldiers here and let them handle their own.”

Crosby said in addition to making things easier for the agencies, the CBCA program helps to minimize the accountability challenges associated with large-scale theater movements.

“It makes our job easy,” Crosby said.  “People are accountable, because TRANSCOM are involved; CENTCOM, (Army Central Command) are involved. All these other entities come in and are involved to make sure people and equipment get back to their home bases.  They are here to ensure they get moved with as (few) problems or discrepancies possible.  It’s the best thing all around.”

Michael Simon, a senior staff officer with the Animal and plant health inspection service of the USDA taught the animal and plant health inspection portion of the course

Simon discussed a variety of agricultural security issues including the telltale signs of pest infestation, food and produce importation, animal disease infestations and agricultural regulations pertaining to international travel.

The possible introduction of foreign species and uncommon diseases to the U.S. is a real and present danger, he said.

“There are pests and diseases which do not occur in the U.S. but are prevalent in this part of the world,” Simon said. “They (microorganisms) can live very well in our arid climates.  Foot-and-mouth disease is one example. It is a very destructive virus which can attack our livestock.  Its introduction in the U.S. would cause millions of dollars of agricultural damage.”

The positive aspects of the program include benefits to personnel and units; once pre-cleared, they are allowed to return home without lengthy delays or possible quarantines, he said.

“This program not only reduces the risk of introducing foreign pests and diseases to the U.S., it also expedites the re-entry of military personnel and cargo into the U.S. Customs pre-cleared, since they normally will not be re-inspected upon arrival,” Simon said. “Units will get their equipment faster and the troops will get to their home station faster with this program.”

Col. Fredrick F.B. Brown, operations officer with the 13th SC(E) and a Natchez, Miss., native, spoke at the conclusion of the seminar.

Brown said he expects each graduate of the course to do the right thing and enforce the standards of the CBCA program, which are based upon federal law and military regulations.

“By utilizing this program, we can pre-clear personnel, cargo and equipment for entry back to the United States,” said Marvin Walker, civilian program manager with the Department of Defense customs program. “It is a win-win situation for the DoD and for the two participating agencies here.”


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Duane Crosby (standing), a supervisory agent with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, speaks with service members about the basics of U.S. customs inspection during a Customs and Border Clearing Agent certification course June 24 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)

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Martin Walker (left), civilian program manager for the Department of Defense customs program, discusses the directives, policies and forms military personnel will be using as customs border and clearing agents during a CBCA certification course June 24 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)

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Col. Fredrick F.B. Brown, operations officer with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) speaks with service members June 24 during a Customs and Border Clearing Agent certification course at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)