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The Airborne, Marine, Operation Center (AMOC); The Silent Sentinels of our Borders

Mike has a keen interest in the effects of politics in our culture. He has a unique way of simplifying complex concepts.



I served in the Air Force in the late 50’s, during the time of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. I was a radar repairman stationed on remote radar sites in California, Japan, Mississippi, and Georgia, in that order. It turns out there is a group of us radar types in Southern California with the same experiences who meet for lunch at the Golden Corral in Anaheim, the third Wednesday of each quarter.

We are all members of the Radar Services Veterans (RSV) group. RSV is a nationwide online organization where those who served on world-wide radar sites, whether ground based, Texas Tower, or Airborne, can share their experiences and exchange “war stories.” Each week, a different radar site is recognized by the RSV and those who served on that site can share their experiences with the membership.

Well, it turns out, one of our luncheon members had connections with The Airborne, Marine, Operation Center (AMOC), a Homeland Security facility based at March Reserve Air force Base in Riverside California.

AMOC’s Missions (from Wikipedia)

AMOC's many missions include: anti-terrorism, countering smuggling, and stopping illegal immigration. The agency uses its aviation and marine assets to detect, interdict, and apprehend conveyances carrying terrorists, contraband, or undocumented aliens intending to enter the United States illegally.

AMOC's Detection and Interdiction Capabilities

AMOC leverages its unique detection and interdiction capabilities to support individual components of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice. They provide support to agencies and multi-jurisdictional task forces including:

  • ICE Homeland Security Investigations
  • The United States Secret Service,
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • The United States Coast Guard
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Special Security Events
  • Joint Interagency Task Force South accounts

To accomplish its missions, AMOC uses a multitude of fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and even unarmed versions of military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

AMOC's Inter-operational Support

Air and Marine Operations Agents and Officers work with both U.S. and foreign agencies and military forces to support their law enforcement efforts. Personnel and assets are deployed abroad to support Department of Homeland Security priorities, most notably for foreign training and counter narcotics missions.

Our Introduction to AMOC

As you can see, AMOC has a very wide range of mission objectives, and responsibilities. There was eight of us on our tour. We were met by an agent at the main gate of the base. We were taken to a facility where we had to show our service records (DD214’s). We were then granted clearances and badges for the day. We then followed the agent to the AMOC facility.

We were met by the Director of the Facility and he explained the mission of AMOC. This was followed by a series of slides showing the assets and resources they use to accomplish their various missions. The director then asked each of us to introduce ourselves and briefly describe our duties and responsibilities while in the Air Force.

The Tour

We were handed off to one of the agents and he took us to the Operation Center. As we entered the Center, a huge situation board came into view. It looked much like a “jumbotron” with maps and symbology all over the board. There were rows of radar operators, looking at their screens and/or the board. A plate glass window separated us from the operators. But on our side of the window, there was a setup of a radar screen, computer, and other equipment that are used to demonstrate the operation of the center to visitors like ourselves.

AMOC Operations Center

AMOC Operations Center

AMOC Operations Center

The Demonstration

An agent turned our attention to the radar screen; he selected one of the symbols that was an actual airliner approaching LAX (Los Angeles Terminal). It showed information including, air speed, altitude, flight number, and flight plan. He then showed us on a computer screen, the flight plan of that aircraft and its history that is pulled up from databases that contain massive amounts of data on suspect air, land, and marine borne conveyances. He then let us select other aircraft symbols to let us experience how the system works. We found that we could randomly select symbols and the system would bring up massive amounts of information about any given selection.

The Stories

The agent then told us how the system is used to track unusual or suspect movements. He stated they saw a slow, low flying aircraft that was going back and forth across the border. It had no flight plan and it would regularly disappear from the radar in the same place. They contacted the border patrol who then went to the place where the aircraft disappeared off the radar.

It turns out it was an ultralight aircraft landing on an abandoned street. The ultralight was loaded with bags of “white stuff.” They apprehended the pilot and the aircraft. The point of the story is they can go from looking for usual movements on a macro level down to the micro level contacting local law enforcement to apprehend violators of the law.

Another story was about tracking an aircraft that would always depart from the same place in Oregon and end at night in the California dessert at the same place. Again, they contacted local law enforcement to be at that spot at night. It turns out, it was a deserted runway in the middle of the desert. As the plane was landing, they turned on the car headlights. The pilot saw the lights and pulled up and disappeared into the night sky.

The next time they saw the movement of the plane, they contacted local law enforcement and told them to keep their lights off until the plane landed. They did just that and when the plane landed, the pilot got out and could be seen destroying several cell phones. He waited under the wing of his twin-engine Cessna while they searched the aircraft and found bags of the “white stuff.”

After the Tour

After the tour, we bid our agents goodbye. We all came to the same conclusion that we can all sleep better knowing that AMOC is like a silent sentinel working behind the scenes 24/7 to protect our borders and work with other law enforcement agencies both domestic and foreign to apprehend the bad guys. The picture below is of us in the hallway of flags. We felt very privileged to take the tour as we said goodbye to our agent, Public Relations Officer, Heather Sullivan.


At the Entrance of AMOC


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Mike Russo

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