CBP is a massive organization, so it’s easy to confuse the sub-groups. Air and Marine is not the border patrol, although they do sometimes assist the border patrol. Largely based at general aviation airports, Air and Marine pilots fly everything from light single-engine aircraft to Cessna Citations, Lockheed P–3s, Airbus helicopters, and even Black Hawks. As the only law enforcement organization in the Department of Homeland Security with aerial assets, they fly a range of missions, including tracking suspected drug runners over land and offshore, providing surveillance during major political events, gathering intelligence on criminal activities, and even providing disaster relief.
The relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas displayed the range of capabilities of Air and Marine aircraft and pilots. While assisting the U.S. Coast Guard, they airlifted more than 80 people. They also mapped the devastation, allowing help on the ground to move more efficiently. And a P–3 was dispatched to provide airspace deconfliction when Bahamas air traffic control was still severely limited. The Miami branch’s Jeff Maher thinks the range of missions is unique. “I might be flying a maritime patrol and detect an inbound load of cocaine one day,” he said. “We could work a surveillance of a dangerous criminal organization the next day. The following day, we might be training for tactical insertions with one of our many law enforcement partners. And the same pilot could be part of all of those missions. I don’t know of another flying job with that kind of variety.”
This fiscal year, Air and Marine Operations hopes to hire 75 pilots, many of them from civilian backgrounds. Always wanted to fly a Black Hawk or P–3 but didn’t join the military? Here’s your chance.