CBS 4 Special Report: Inside The Border Patrol Academy, Part II
Few are selected. Even fewer finish at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico, where trainees are put through a challenging six-month military style academy.
One of those few is Matthew Marquez, who isn't your average trainee. Matthew was selected as U.S. Border Patrol Academy Class 1094's guide on.
"To be a guide-on, it's an honor in PT," said Marquez as he smiles. "It goes to the fastest person in the class so I got to be in front of the formation with the guide-on with our class flag throughout the academy."
And not only is Matthew the fastest, he's also one of the smartest.
"We would start early, end late then we would get out of class, at least an hour of Spanish, then we would study law afterwards another hour or two and then operations as well," said Marquez.
And he's from right here in the Rio Grande Valley.
Six months ago, the Weslaco native traded the warm South Texas life for the cold wind of Artesia, New Mexico, where a typical day can be in the 30's with intense wind.
"This is something I've always wanted, one of my life time goals to be in law enforcement," said Marquez who graduated from UTRGV in 2014 with a degree in criminal law.
For the last 117 days, Matthew has spent his time studying, physically training and mentally preparing for life as a Border Patrol Agent.
After 2 years of waiting through the application process, finally it was all worth it.
"I see my hard work finally pay off from these last six months and to say I made it and graduated here from this prestigious academy," said Marquez.
Marquez went through multiple exams, polygraph tests and background checks before he was accepted into the academy where he mastered the techniques of firearms, immigration law, Spanish language, special operations and driving.
"It is difficult. I didn't have any down time really when I was at the academy," said Marquez.
Difficult, but worth it.
"I'll be able to get my credential and badge and get to go apply everything I've learned and really represent what the Border Patrol is out there on the field."
After a final exam on everything they've learned and passing an intense obstacle course, it's time for graduation.
"They go through struggles here regardless of who they are or what backgrounds they have, but I think it's rewarding for them that they've earned that badge and title of a Border Patrol Agent," said Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol Academy, Carlos Ortiz.
Now that these men and women are ready to protect the border, never forgetting compassion, honesty and respect for the patch that's been on the uniform since 1924.
"Sometimes we do things that may seem inappropriate to people watching on TV, but know that we do have compassion, we have loved ones too, we're human beings. We have compassion, we do have a heart," said Ortiz.
A heart like Marquez's who will be stationed in South Texas, allowing him to patrol the area he grew up in, all while having his biggest support system nearby.
"I'm ready for my next step, to hit the field," said Marquez.
Something his mother, who's also his biggest fan, knows.
"At the beginning he did say mom it's tough, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm not giving up," said Lori Ramirez, "and he never did give up and now we're here."
Matthew's family traveled the 800 miles from the Valley to Artesia to see his hard work rewarded.
"When I saw him I got so emotional, because we just lost my mom two weeks ago and that's one of the things she wanted, was to see Matthew in his green uniform."
That green uniform which represents honor and integrity for newly-pinned Agent Matthew Marquez.
"I think this agency is one of the best in the nation. I'm happy to get a career with them, it's something I see for a lifetime," said Marquez.
All agents who complete the 117-day academy graduate with 14 certifications and 18 college credit hours.