Members of the Starr County Special Crimes Unit unvile a new seal during a ceremony at Fort Ringgold on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Rio Grande City. (Joel Martinez |

RIO GRANDE CITY — Within the boundaries of the historic Fort Ringgold, just outside the newly renovated Old Post Hospital, an emblem of the troops once stationed there was brought back to life.

The seal once used by the U.S. Army’s 12th Cavalry was unveiled Thursday as the seal for the Starr County Special Crimes Unit.

The design — which displays crossed swords behind a shield with a cactus and a streamer with the words “Always ready” written in Latin — will be emblazoned on their new patches which the officers received during a ceremony Thursday night.

“Our unit patch and seal have been in the making for several years now,” said Robert Caples, the commander of the Special Crimes Unit. “We wanted to ensure that whatever we came up with was going to have symbolism and that it would reflect the community that we serve.”

Next month will mark three years that the Special Crimes Unit has been in operation.

The brainchild of Caples, the unit is comprised of officers from all the local law enforcement agencies — Roma PD, Rio Grande City PD, Escobares PD, La Grulla PD, and the Starr County Sheriff’s office.

The unit also has a board of directors manned by the chiefs of each of those law enforcement agencies.

“He came up with a crazy idea of bringing together all the law enforcement agencies that we could to work together,” said Victor Canales, the Starr County attorney.

“And he was talking about our local law enforcement agencies, he wasn’t talking about trying to get together with DPS or Border Patrol — sure, work with them but make us take care of ourselves in that our own law enforcement agencies … come together as one to have one unit,” Canales said.

Members of the Starr County Special Crimes Unit unvile a new seal during a ceremony at Fort Ringgold on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Rio Grande City. (Joel Martinez |

Rio Grande City Police Chief Noe Castillo, who serves as the board’s director, praised the work of the unit and their role within the community.

“The purpose of the unit in the beginning has evolved to what it is today, to the special investigations and other cases that we’ve worked throughout the county,” Castillo said. “They don’t work 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, they work when they have to; they’re here for the community, they’re here for tomorrow and I don’t think the unit’s going anywhere.”

Since the creation of the unit, they added a tactical element in January 2019 which has enabled its members to gain “experience through their involvement and numerous successful, tactical operations,” Caples said.

He added that their patch has been in the works for several years but they wanted to ensure that whatever they came up with would hold symbolism and would reflect the community.

Caples credited retired Col. Ross Barrera of Revive Fort Ringgold — a voluntary organization that aims to restore the fort — in helping obtain permission to utilize the 12th Cavalry’s seal.

“Fort Ringgold’s mission was to protect this area from banditry along the border and although the troops are gone, the mission remains the same,” Caples said. “We are always ready and we’re honored to carry on the mission with a patch that will always remind us of our honor, our heritage and our people.”