U.S. Customs and Border Protection has tapped a 21-year veteran of the Border Patrol to oversee and coordinate the operations of three agency branches in Arizona.
The selection of Arizonan Jeffrey Self, 47, as commander of the new Arizona Joint Field Command center in Tucson was made official Thursday. In the newly created position, Self will provide strategic direction, guidance and operational oversight for:
• The Border Patrol's Tucson and Yuma sectors.
• The Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations' Tucson office, which contains the officers who work at border ports of entry and airports.
• The Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine's Yuma and Tucson air branches, which operate agency helicopters, planes and unmanned aerial systems.
The new post shouldn't change anything for agents and officers in the field, Self said. The main difference is that the sector chiefs in the three branches will now report to Self, who reports to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin. Before, the sector chiefs reported to their respective headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"One of the things we are trying to capitalize on is gaining efficiencies to create effectiveness," Self said.
The Joint Field Command center is housed in Tucson at South Swan and East Golf Links roads in the same complex as the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector offices. Arizona, the busiest stretch on the U.S.-Mexico border for the last decade, is the first state with a joint command center.
Self arrived in Tucson in late October to begin working to get the center ready to go operational, which occurred this week, he said. In an interview Thursday, he spoke about several topics:
On instilling a one-team, one-fight mentality among the three CBP branches he'll oversee:
"We've come a long way in integration since CBP was created, but there's recognition that there is still integration to be done. What the Joint Field Command is going to do is set priorities to start working as a joint force and creating that joint force mind-set."
On morale among federal agents following the Dec. 14 fatal shooting of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry:
"Will they ever forget Agent Terry? Absolutely not. He paid the ultimate sacrifice, and people are still mourning his death and will be for years.
"I was in Nogales when agent (Alexander) Kirpnick was shot and killed (in 1998). He was one of my trainees. ... I can tell you that people still mourn his death, and people will still mourn the death of Agent Terry for years and years out.
"But the morale is high. These agents are resilient. They are hardworking, dedicated people, and they do a great job. A situation like that basically facilitates a burning desire in our people to get out there and work even harder to bring control to this border."
On coming home to Arizona:
Self grew up in Sierra Vista and went to Cochise College before beginning his Border Patrol career in Uvalde, Texas. He came back to Arizona to work at the Nogales station for 12 years.
After three years as assistant field agent in charge in the Naco station, Self was sent to Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he spent the past six years. He held the post of division chief for Southwest border operations for the last three years.
"It's just good to be back home," Self said. "It's great to come here and be able to serve the community you grew up in."
"It's great to come here and be able to serve the community you grew up in."
Jeffrey Self, commander of the new Arizona Joint Field Command center in Tucson
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or email@example.com