Jaime is 38 years old and has been part of the Ecuadorian military service for almost 20 years. He is now a sergeant, and he commands his own group of men. These men have provided a source of camaraderie, fellowship and friendship, but their line of work often takes them away from home and actual family.
Through his service, Jaime has had the opportunity to explore the furthest corners of his country. On average, his commute to a post is a 15-hour journey that includes multiple bus changes in different cities throughout Ecuador.
However, the posts that are often the most challenging are the ones on the “frontera,” better known as the borderlands. Jaime has worked on both the Colombian border and the Peruvian border, and describes them as both having similar dangers.
He recounted his most outrageous field experience as one that occurred during a routine checkpoint. A car was passing through the checkpoint, but something seemed off. He stopped the car and proceeded to examine all of its parts more closely. This inspection yielded the discovery of $10,000 in one of the wheels and the incarceration of minor drug traffickers.
While violent confrontations are not too common, the majority of incidents on the “frontera” are caused by interactions with drug traffickers—FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army/Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo) in the North and Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) in the South. With the number of drug traffickers along the borderlands, both sides of the country can be dangerous in their own right.
Jaime pointed to a scar on his forearm while rehashing an incident from the Colombian border. His patrol had been charged with the task of clearing out FARC rebel strongholds along the border, and they were prepared to raid one of the camps. The rebels scrambled to leave as they approached, which led to a minor confrontation. One of the rebels stabbed Jaime in the arm with a sharpened wooden pole in his attempt to escape.
With a family that includes two young children, Jaime often worries about his line of work. He wants to be a good father, but it is difficult for him to spend extended time home with his family when the call of duty places him so far from them. When asked if he is satisfied with his job, Jaime responded pragmatically. “It’s not necessarily that I like working in the military, but what else am I supposed to do at this point?”
Before embarking for his next post, Jaime finishes telling his story about the FARC rebels.
"Don’t worry though, none of them escaped.”