SAN DIEGO—Deep inside the U.S. Border Patrol is a little-known elite team called the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Unit. Since its creation nearly 20 years ago, BORSTAR has largely flown under the radar.

“Most people don’t realize that the Border Patrol has paramedics, search and rescue capability,” says John Welter, a BORSTAR agent in the San Diego sector of the Border Patrol. “But a lot of times our guys put themselves in a lot of danger, and you end up almost in as bad a shape as the person you’re trying to rescue.”

BORSTAR initially was created in 1998 to provide Border Patrol the ability to search for and rescue its own agents caught in dangerous situations on the job, and to respond to a growing number of deaths among illegal immigrants.

The team has expanded to become the only national law enforcement search-and-rescue unit that can conduct tactical medical training for federal, state, local, and international government agencies.

Hear from Welter, one of the team’s agents, on why it’s sometimes a “selfless, thankless job”—but also a rewarding one.