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Military Mission To Lay Wire On The Border Wrapped Up With Mixed Results

Marines string concertina wire at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, Nov. 16, 2018

Photo by Steve Walsh

Above: Marines string concertina wire at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, Nov. 16, 2018

The military's mission to lay concertina wire along the U.S. border with Mexico wrapped up this week, according to the Department of Defense.

The last of the engineers finished their work Sunday, according to a written statement by Col. Catherine Wilkinson, spokesperson for U.S. Army North.

Just before the midterm elections, President Trump called for troops to deploy along the U.S. border with Mexico. Early in the deployment, engineers began laying rows of concertina, or razor wire to fortify the border, beginning with the ports of entry.

In November, Trump Tweeted a photo of a portion of the border wall, wrapped in the concertina wire, after a group of migrants were seen scaling the wall on TV. The president Tweeted in part, “no climbers anymore.” The spot was near where the wall meets the Pacific Ocean. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited the same spot around that time.

KPBS visited the location last week. A small fence staked out on the beach during Nielsen’s visit is now mainly a tangle of wire. Another portion of wire was in ball near the base of the wall. The wire on the wall is also beginning to sag. The Department of Defense position is that is up to Homeland Security to maintain the wire, once the troops put it into place, Wilkinson said.

Photo by Steve Walsh

Concertina wire installed by U.S. Marines is shown on a beach near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Diego in this undated photo.

The Department of Defense largely kept the wire laying operation away from the cameras, though in November media were allowed to visit where the Marines were working near the border crossing at Otay Mesa. A portion of the wall in that location is covered in as many as three layers of razor wire, while nearby portions of the wall don’t have any razor wire installed.

The Pentagon followed the plans outlined by Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, Wilkinson said in her statement.

“The DoD then issued the order for the military to emplace the wire. Military engineers worked with their local counterparts to ensure wire was emplaced in the correct locations and in some cases, the overall amount or location of wire was adjusted based on ground-level review of the initial request,” she said in the statement.

Homeland Security and border patrol have not responded to a request to see the plan or to lay out their strategy for where the wire was laid.

The Pentagon said a total of 180 linear miles of wire was laid along the border since October, including 46 miles in California, mostly around San Diego and Calexico.

Department of Defense says 1,850 troops were used to lay the wire. The cost of the operation hasn’t been released. Some troops remain along the border to work with the border patrol, mostly providing mobile surveillance.

The military mission to reinforce the border with concertina wire wrapped up Sunday. Homeland Security has not released the plan to show why some portions of the wall are covered in razor wire while other nearby sections have none.

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This story is part of our American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration on in-depth military coverage with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and The Patriots Connection.


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Photo of Steve Walsh

Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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