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PEOPLE: Georgia (not that Georgia) on his mind

Glen Schroeder is at the tail end of a six-day retirement as the top officer at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Grand Forks. It's been good, he says. But having Georgia on his mind is making him restless. Sunday, Schroeder will f...

Glen Schroeder is at the tail end of a six-day retirement as the top officer at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Grand Forks.

It's been good, he says.

But having Georgia on his mind is making him restless.

Sunday, Schroeder will fly to the Republic of Georgia to begin a new job. He'll serve as a border security adviser to the Georgia Border Police in Tbilisi, the country's capital city.

There is a law that requires mandatory retirement for federal law enforcement officers at age 57. Although Schroeder turned 57 in December, he said has more working days left in him.

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"I knew this was coming, this mandatory retirement, and, quite honestly, I wasn't ready to sit back and do nothing. I started to look around a little bit and this opportunity sort of materialized and the timing was right," he said.

Schroeder, a native of Pembina, N.D., began his career with the border patrol in California in 1977. He returned to Grand Forks in 2000 after spending time in Havre, Mont.

In Tbilisi, Schroeder will be a contract employee with the U.S. government. For now, he plans on staying for a year. He hopes to use his 30 years of experience with the border patrol to help the former Soviet country secure its borders. Border security is a requirement to join the European Union.

"The priorities for the Georgia Border Police are very similar to the priorities that the United States Border Patrol has on customs and border protection," he said.

He anticipates dealing with a variety of issues, including counter-terrorism, narcotics smuggling and human trafficking. Georgia's proximity to Iran also creates security issues related to terrorism, he said.

"Azerbaijan is just a small country that separates Georgia from Iran. There's not a great deal of distance between Tbilisi and Tehran," Schroeder said.

When in Tbilisi, Schroeder will work out of the U.S. embassy with diplomatic status. He said he has a fairly clear idea of what to expect in Georgia, but he's prepared to learn on the run.

"It's another adventure," he said.

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The position in Georgia is unaccompanied, so Schroeder's wife will not be able to stay with him the entire time. However, she is allowed to visit him for 90 days at a time on her passport without a visa. He'll also be able to recharge his battery with periodic return visits to the United States.

"That'll be kind of nice. I can get replenished," he said.

Change of command

Before his retirement, Schroeder served as chief patrol agent for the Grand Forks sector of the U.S. Border Patrol. The Grand Forks sector is responsible for eight states and 861 miles of the U.S. border with Canada in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Friday, Schroeder relinquished his command to Scott Baker, who had previously served as deputy chief patrol agent in Grand Forks.

Baker is a former U.S. Marine with extensive border patrol experience in various parts of the country. Kevin Stevens, deputy chief of the Office of Border Patrol, said Baker is a proven leader who has been devoted to maintaining U.S. border security throughout his career. "Scott has what I consider to be an uncanny ability to cut through the fog," he said.

Stevens said patrolling U.S. borders has changed since Sept. 11. It's not just about law enforcement, it's about defense as well.

"It's an extremely daunting task," he said.

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Stevens lauded Schroeder's leadership as he brought the Grand Forks sector through the period of change after Sept. 11.

Baker will lead the sector into a new era as well. The border patrol will partner with the North Dakota National Guard and UND to use Unmanned Aircraft Systems to enhance border security in the future.

"Our greatest challenge is to remain vigilant always," he said.

Reach Edison at (701) 780-1107, (800) 477-6572 ext. 107 or jedison@gfherald.com .

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