A Border Wars Glossary

The Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas has become a hotbed of drug smuggling,  which has reached ‘Texas-sized’ proportions. In the next episode of Border Wars, Border Patrol agents enlist the help of the A–Star surveillance helicopter to track a suspected smuggling ring in a high-speed vehicle chase, and make a shocking find in a suspicious looking vehicle awaiting export into Mexico. In order to catch criminals like these, border agents need to communicate quickly and efficiently – resulting in some strange terminology. Field Associate Producer Steven Schrenzel gives us the lowdown on some Border Wars terms.


“Looks like we’ve got 14 bodies.  Seven are TBS’ing.”

“Huh?  You mean dead bodies?  And what exactly are they doing?”

“No, not dead.”

Do they sell a Rosetta Stone for Border Patrol-speak?  It was my first day on the job with Border Wars.  Looking for sympathy, I glanced at our veteran audio guy Kevin, who was nodding his head in clear understanding of this gibberish.  What?  I’m hearing numbers and letters, not English.  But I really don’t want to be the idiot pleading for word definitions while sprinting under the scorching desert sun, so I came to the conclusion that to communicate fluently for those 5 weeks on the border, I needed to cram a slew of walkie codes, acronyms, shorthand, and slang into my newbie brain.

That was 11 months ago.  Now I’m a Border Wars veteran, and I’m proud to say that, like Kevin, understanding their sentences is cake. So here, for your viewing pleasure, is my informal list of Border Wars vocabulary that I’ve collected over months on the job, for those of you who want to follow even closer along with the officers and agents on the show, or for any future TV producers who show up at the border and need to quickly decipher that “Omaha is cutting” has nothing to do with Nebraska.  (Or scissors.)


Air & Marine:  The arm of CBP that patrols from the sky and sea.

Body: A person, usually a border-crosser.

BP: Border Patrol, the arm of CBP that patrols the border from the ground.

CBP: Customs and Border Protection agency; CBP encompasses a number of offices we film, including OFO, BP, and A&M.

to Cut [sign]:  To search for clues, especially footprints or tracks.

Exotic:  A border-crosser not of North or South American origin.

ICE:  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with investigating and enforcing immigration and customs laws.

Mobile:  an agent in a vehicle.

OFO:  Office of Field Operations; the arm of CBP that guards legal ports of entry.

Omaha:  helicopter support

OTM:  “Other Than Mexican,” or an individual not of Mexican nationality.

POE:  Port of Entry, or a place where individuals lawfully enter the country.

Primary:  The first phase of inspection by OFO officers at a point of entry.

to Refer:  To send an individual or vehicle to secondary for closer inspection.

Secondary:  The area where suspicious individuals or vehicles are sent for closer inspection after passing through primary.

Sign:  Clues, especially footprints, that lead agents to border-crossers.

Southside:  South of the border, or in Mexico.

   to TBS:  To Turn Back South, or to head back into Mexico.

Traffic:  Vehicles or pedestrians passing through POE’s.

   to Work southbound:   To inspect cars or individuals heading into Mexico (usually for money and weapons).


Be sure to catch Border Wars: Meth Mobile tonight, July 16th at 9P et/pt.


  1. Stevve
    November 2, 2012, 12:33 pm

    I thought OMAHA was an acronym with each letter standing for something. I’m pretty sure they even stated the full name on one episode of Border Wars.

  2. Lori
    November 14, 2012, 11:34 pm

    Just was watching a new episode 11/14/12 and noticed that the guy was narrating the show was not the same from previous years. I recognize his voice but can’t seem to remember who he is? Can you help me out? Thanks & love the show. God Bless all the border patrol and their families.