Helicopters patrolling US-Mexico border keep flying despite government shutdown

Office of Air and Marine (OAM) pilot Mark Martinez prepares to fly an AS-350 helicopter on patrol over the U.S.-Mexico border on Oct. 1, 2013 in San Diego, California. John Moore / Getty Images

U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopters remained in the air over the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday despite the government shutdown.

Although their paid leave has been temporarily suspended, agents with the Office of Air and Marine (OAM) are considered essential to national security and are therefore exempt from furloughs. OAM helicopters support the Border Patrol as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel protecting border areas.

-- Getty Images

OAM supervisor Chris Riccardi (2nd left) explains to fellow pilots how the federal shutdown affects them at the beginning of their shift. John Moore / Getty Images
OAM pilot Mark Martinez prepares an AS-350 helicopter. John Moore / Getty Images
A maintenance worker prepares helicopters for duty. John Moore / Getty Images
A cactus display inside the office of an OAM agent. John Moore / Getty Images
A helicopter takes off to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. John Moore / Getty Images