Monday, July 12, 2010

Sheriff Paul Babeu also Major Babeu, AZ National Gaurd.

July 11, 2010


Guard Officer elected Sheriff in landslide vote

By Clint Wood
MAJ PAUL BABEU knows a thing or two about accepting new roles and challenges.
While attending Officer Candidate School (OCS), he remembers being told, “You shall seek and accept responsibility.”

The Arizona Army National Guard officer, who has nearly 20 years of service in the Guard, has embraced responsibility as both a Citizen- Soldier and a civilian. In the latter position, Babeu has served nearly a year as the sheriff of Pinal County, AZ, which measures approximately 5,400 square miles and is the fastest growing county in the U.S.

Asked why he chose to run for sheriff , 40-yearold Babeu, who became a police officer at 32, replied, “Because the organization was screwed up, and I knew I could do a better job than the sheriff .”

Despite Babeu being a republican in a democratic county, the voters agreed and he won by a “landslide”—about 8,000 votes. He was the first republican elected to office in Pinal County since its formation in 1875.

He feels one of the reasons for his election was that he shook hands and made eye contact with many of the county’s residents—a number estimated at 400,000.

“If you don’t believe in yourself and your own ability, nobody ever will,” he commented. Babeu is “leading” more than 700 employees in the sheriff’s office. Being responsible for so many people is nothing new to him, as he led between 400 and 1,000 Guard Soldiers as the Task Force Yuma commander during his 16-month Operation Jump Start tour. This operation saw Guard troops deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep the borders safe.

Babeu remembers the first time he accepted a challenge: when he stepped off the bus for Basic Combat Training at Fort Benning, GA.

Babeu, who served three years as an enlisted infantryman, practically grew up “bleeding Army green.” His father served in the Army during the Korean War, surviving a very low life expectancy rate in combat for the Soldiers on the frontline. At one point in Babeu’s Guard career, his three brothers served as well.

“I am an unabashed patriot,” said Babeu. “I’ve always loved and respected the military.”


He was one of the most successful task force commanders of Operation Jump Start. Of the nine units, his achieved more than double the results of halting illegal border crossings.
Babeu said other task force commanders spent a lot of time attempting to learn why he was so successful.


“It’s all about people, and … leaders [need] to get over themselves,” he noted. “They need to focus on the mission. We did that right from the start.”

He said his mission intent was to maintain communication with the Border Patrol leaders, unlike the other task forces, who considered it a military operation. Included in this dialog was what each entity’s goals were.

He said he educated the patrol on what his task force brought to the table to benefit the patrol’s mission. He also challenged the patrol in tactics and procedures.

“There was a sense of trust that was developed so they didn’t take it in the wrong matter, and they ended up achieving results that they had never seen,” he explained.

He noted that some of the agents had served for more than 20 years and were “up to their eyeballs” in just trying to catch and release.

His task force’s direct support and cooperation with the U.S. Border Patrol resulted in a 74-percent reduction in illegal aliens crossing the border.

Babeu is still in contact with the two Arizona Border Patrol chiefs, and they have had conversations about the operation. One of these included how the cooperation with Babeu’s task force allowed the patrol to concentrate on other criminal activity, including human trafficking.
Babeu, who has been a commander for a combat engineer company, considers leading a task force during a domestic mission like Operation Jump Start as his “greatest privilege.”


Babeu brings all his lessons learned in his Guard career to his role as sheriff. He said this responsibility is different than leading Soldiers, though. Everything the sheriffs office does affects nearly all of the citizens in the county.

“I tell my employees that everything we do must be driven by our desire to improve service to the public,” he explained.

And he communicates his intent to his charges at the sheriffs office just as he does to his Soldiers. “I always articulate and define very clearly what I expect from the department collectively,” he explained.


Before the citizens of Pinal County had a chance to remove their “Vote for Babeu” signs from their lawn, he was hard at work, making the changes he deemed necessary.
Some seemed insurmountable. His county has one deputy per 1,000 citizens. The national average is 2.2 deputies per 1,000. Babeu instituted a beat system, where each deputy was assigned a small area to oversee. This meant the deputy would become familiar with all the businesses and schools in his beat.

Babeu also ensured that about 500 of his employees, including him, were certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This process took time, but helped deliver his promise of making the county safer.

“Even if it takes a lot of effort, if we say we are going to do something, damn it, we are going to do it,” he noted.

This was just one example of the way Babeu “changed business” in the sheriff ’s office. But each time he made changes like this, he told the voters why—something he learned in the Guard, specifically, while serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2004–2005.

He volunteered as an individual augumentee and was assigned to one of the 42nd Infantry Division’s aviation brigades.

Serving under the 42nd—or “Rainbow”— division was sort of a homecoming for Babeu, who was born and raised in North Adams, MA. He and his three brothers drilled with the division at the North Adams armory.

His duties in Iraq included being a human relations expert and public affairs officer. He excelled at increasing morale and handling Soldiers’ issues, including family and psychological issues.
Unlike most military units, whose leaders made decisions without telling the Soldiers why, his commander fully supported him listening to the Soldiers’ concerns and attempting to solve their problems. Naturally, they chose their chain of command in the process.

“Imagine if you have everybody on the same sheet of music fully believing in what you’re doing,” he said. “That we're accountable even to ourselves. That we’re working to improve our operations and what is most important to us is the Soldier. So many leaders talk that game and not as many follow through.”

Some officers were removed from their leadership positions because of their inability to take care of their Soldiers’ personal issues. Babeu, who said his leadership trait is having discipline in everything he does, kept a watchful eye on every leader. He especially reached out for mentoring from the stellar leaders.

“I tried to implement those life skills and leadership skills into my life,” he said.


One of these “skills” was spending holidays visiting his Soldiers or employees. Recently, this included “riding shotgun” with his deputies and shaking hands with every detention officer.
“When they can’t be with their family,” he explained, “they know their sheriff is there to say hello and ask how they’re doing.”


Babeu treated campaigning for sheriff as though it were a military mission. Every step was planned out. He feels policy is similar to a military plan. “It’s a dynamic, living, breathing plan like any mission or operation,” he commented.

He added that he spoke several times to the voters about his military experiences.
“Americans are proud of our military, so they get it. They understand that the best leadership in the country is a result of training in the military.“

His days at OCS helped, too. He is fulfilling the school’s intent at 110 percent.


  1. Bob,

    I'm wondering if Sheriff Joe is going to get pissed off at all the publicity Paul is getting. I'll say one thing, Paul does a hell of a better interview than most. I don't think I can recall him ever talking about what HE has done.

    Take care,

    Tim R.

  2. Sheriff Paul Babeu has brought the fight to the Drug and human smugglers. In one bust alone, his Deputies arrested 33 key figures - took 3,500 lbs of drugs, seized over 40 cars, 1/2 million in cash, froze their bank accounts and took 8 of their custom homes.

    $30 million in all. They have used their dirty money to improve and expand service. To buy new cars, open new sub-stations and better protect Pinal families. I'd say those are some amazing successes for Arizona's youngest Sheriff. Keep up th great work Sheriff Paul!

  3. We’ve (PCSO) have quickened our emergency response times by more than 3 minutes. Not because we drive faster, but since we (the Sheriff and Chief Deputy Steve Henry) implemented a beat system, where each Deputy is assigned a beat for an entire year and they learn every neighborhood, school, business, and also our frequent fliers – the criminals. We now have computers in every patrol car, news radios and improved training. We’re doing a better job to protect our families. I worked for five Sheriff's and Paul Babeu is by far the best and has done the most. I think the Sheriff is the best Sheriff in Arizona.

    Sgt.Ty Morgan