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Pilot advocates Black Hawk use for stopping human traffickers
by Shane Ersland
Jul 29, 2014 | 456 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Benjamin Falk poses next to one of the Black Hawk helicopters he flies for the U.S. Army Reserve.
Benjamin Falk poses next to one of the Black Hawk helicopters he flies for the U.S. Army Reserve.
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Benjamin Falk is able to observe San Patricio County from angles that are unfamiliar to most residents.

The Rockport resident flies Black Hawk helicopters for the U.S. Army Reserve. He often utilizes T.P. McCampbell Porter Airport when there is too much traffic at Kingsville’s Naval Air Station for him to perform procedures. His flight activity often depends on the department’s fluctuating fiscal standing.

“Sometimes I’ll go out several times per week, or sometimes it could be just once per month,” Falk said. “The activity is reflective of our dynamic budget.”

Falk’s experiences in the air have given him a unique perspective on the state’s current border security situation.

When State Rep. J.M. Lozano spoke at a July 8 San Patricio County Republican Women’s meeting in Portland about border security, Falk spoke up in support of Lozano’s proposal to utilize more helicopters to combat illegal immigration. He said he regularly sees illegal immigrants when he is in the air.

“We definitely know they’re there,” Falk said.

Gov. Rick Perry authorized orders for 1,000 National Guard troops to help secure the southern border Monday. The Guard will work with additional law enforcement to coordinate ground, river, and air operations to deter criminal activity along the Texas-Mexico border.

The Reserve does not have a working memorandum with Border Patrol agents to cooperate in combating illegal immigration, Falk said. But he believes the Reserve’s resources could be valuable in the effort.

“It saddens me that we can’t utilize those resources,” Falk said. “I know first hand the effectiveness of using aerial assets to intercept them. I’d like to see additional Reserve Black Hawks to aid ground units in their battles against drugs and human trafficking.”

The Black Hawks’ ability to fly with night vision would provide a primary aid in locating human traffickers, Falk said.

“Night vision systems greatly enable us to identify these folks at night,” he said.

Falk has been in the Reserve for more than eight years. He began flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., in 2010.

Portland resident Garrison Thompson - a 2008 Gregory-Portland High School graduate - often flies traffic patterns with Falk.

“I do general maintenance for the aircraft, and provide an extra set of eyes for the pilots when they’re in flight,” Thompson said.

Illegal immigrants and human traffickers do not provide the only noteworthy commotion on the ground. Thompson said he often sees disruptive wildlife, including wild hogs.

“Sometimes I’ll notify someone about it if we’re not working on something major,” Thompson said. “They’ll usually be around water holes.”
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