Aaron Heitke, '97, Named Commander of Grand Forks Border Patrol

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School of Law


It was a homecoming of sorts for Aaron Heitke.

The UND School of Law graduate and Minnesota native formally was named on Wednesday chief patrol agent of the Grand Forks Border Patrol sector that oversees eight northern and midwestern states as well as 861 miles of the U.S.-Canadian border in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In the formal ceremony at Grand Forks Air Force Base attended by numerous federal, state and local partners, Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Michael J. Fisher pinned a badge on Heitke, symbolizing the transfer of responsibility.

"It's humbling," Heitke said afterward. "I'm very proud to be selected as the chief. It's been a personal goal of mine for many years and something that I've worked hard for."

Fisher said Heitke is the right man for the job and will be a great fit in his new position.

"I've known and worked with the chief (Heitke) for a number of years," Fisher said. "He has an impeccable reputation and unquestionable integrity. I think he's going to be good, not just for the organization, but for the surrounding community."

Heitke, who officially took command of the sector in June, replaced Austin Skero, who was promoted to a similar position in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Heitke career has covered more than 17 years of service in various roles, most recently as the deputy chief patrol agent of the Havre, Mont., sector in before taking this job. Graduating from the University of Minnesota-Duluth before attending law school at UND, Heitke was inducted into the Minnesota Bar Association in 1997 and practiced law for a short time before entering the Border Patrol.

Heitke, a native of Paynesville, Minn., is happy to finally be back in the area where he grew up, he said.

"The last time I lived here was the big flood," he said. "This town has changed a lot and grown quite a bit since I left, but it's been great to come back."

Heitke said one of the biggest issues in the sector will be dealing with the growing number of arrests and problems in the Bakken. He said he also hopes to work with local law enforcement and partner agencies in order to control the border and make the area under his watch safer.

With about 200 agents, the Grand Forks sector is one of 21 sectors in the U.S. Border Patrol and has the largest border with a foreign country.

Heitke said with the threat of terrorism, the border patrol is critical to homeland security.

"Our job is extremely important," he said. "We need to provide defense in order to protect the United States."