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 Balancing dual role:
border agent, chaplain

[COMMENT:   I am chaplain for the Minutemen located at Camp Vigilance, near Boulevard, CA, on the Mexican border.  This article below tells the story of how one Arizona Border Patrol officer became serious about his Christian faith, and then became chaplain for the BP.     E. Fox]

Published: 05.26.2009

Balancing dual role: border agent, chaplain

By Arthur H. Rotstein


He has a profound sense of duty to his country and an equally abiding faith. And working as a patrol agent along the Mexican border on Memorial Day gave him an opportunity to dwell on those countless American military personnel who have paid with their lives to maintain the nation's freedoms.

Ingertson said he told his supervisor chaplain last week that he probably would not be thinking of anyone specifically on Monday, but he would reflect on "those who we lost out there, whose memorials we put together, soldiers who gave it all, who put it all out there for all of us."

For Ingertson, being in both the Border Patrol and its chaplaincy has a deeper meaning. Reaching those who serve their country and seeing them change their lives are the most meaningful aspects of being a chaplain. "When people realize what's wrong in their lives and take steps to change, that's awesome," he said.

On the other hand, incidents such as one that occurred this month in Baghdad where an Army sergeant unable to cope with stress was accused of killing five other soldiers in a counseling center are terribly distressing and hit home, Ingertson said.

From his perspective, Ingertson said, being in the Border Patrol or the Army is similar. "The love of country drives me to want to do this job, to defend it domestically or outside of the continental United States," he said.

Ingertson, a 32-year-old native of Laguna Niguel, Calif., enlisted in 1994 and served four years on active duty in air defense and military intelligence.

After a year in junior college, he joined the Army Reserve and applied to the Border Patrol, needing a job. When he joined in 1999, it was simply that a job.

"But it became so much more when I put the uniform on, got the gun and the badge, and started enforcing the immigration law. It took on a whole different role, a different meaning in my life."

Assigned to the patrol's station in Douglas, Ingertson was part of the Tucson Sector's honor guard when he went through a religious rebirth in August 2002. The honor guard was taking part in a memorial service for Kris Eggle, a 28-year-old National Park Service ranger who was shot to death while chasing two suspects in a drug-related killing at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

"Kris' mother and father and family members were commenting on his faith and his life," Ingertson recalled. "And I felt I wasn't walking the walk. That's when I first felt God tugging my heartstrings and kind of get me on the right path. I felt the call of the Lord . . . to go into the ministry."

Ingertson, who has a bachelor's degree from the University of Phoenix, enrolled in a seminary program through Wayland Baptist University and was ordained in November 2005 as a minister in the Full Gospel Church.

As a Border Patrol agent and a chaplain, Ingertson carries a handgun something he's frequently asked about.

"Chaplaincy in the Border Patrol is a detail, not necessarily a position, he said.

As an Army reservist chaplain, Ingertson is officially a noncombatant, as he was while in Iraq, where he ministered principally to soldiers assigned to the headquarters element of the 3rd Expeditionary Support Command at Balad.

Ingertson said his faith definitely got him through hard times, especially being away from his wife, Graciela, and his daughters, Jamie, who is now 11, and Krystia, 5.

"Others had trouble finding the hope and the purpose of being over there and not having the faith to fall back on," he said.

His wife's background in coming from a small town near Delicias, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, also provides him with a fuller perspective of the realities that Border Patrol agents encounter with illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico, he said.

"It's living in that tension between the desire to want to grant someone mercy and . . . the need to enact the justice" that the law demands, he said.

"Kris' mother and father and family members were commenting on his faith and his life. And I felt I wasn't walking the walk. That's when I first felt God tugging my heartstrings and kind of get me on the right path."

Joshua Ingertson

Agent and chaplain for the U.S. Border Patrol


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Date Posted -  --/--/2008   -   Date Last Edited - 09/15/2012