Congresswoman Escobar Leads Texas Democratic Congressional Delegation Calling for an Investigation Into Operation Lone Star
“When National Guardsmen are deployed on state active-duty orders, their well-being is entrusted to the state. However, it is clear the state leadership does not have our troops’ best interest in mind.”
Washington, January 13, 2022
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), member of the House Armed Services Committee, led the Texas Democratic Congressional Delegation in sending a letter to the Texas Military Department urging a full investigation into actions related to Operation Lone Star (OLS) and how this mission is impacting the well-being, morale, and overall readiness of servicemembers.
The letter, which was sent to Texas Military Department Inspector General Colonel Daniel Heape, cites recent alarming news reports on OLS’ unacceptable living conditions, low morale, and suicides.
“These alarming reports call into question decisions made by the leadership of the TMD and Governor Abbott and necessitate an immediate impartial and comprehensive investigation of all TMD actions related to OLS and the conditions of National Guard troops deployed at the U.S.-Mexico border,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers continued, “Latest estimates from the state put troop totals at 10,000 servicemembers either at the U.S.-Mexico border or supporting OLS from other parts of the state. Not only are these 10,000 lives being disrupted for a mission that is a political stunt, but they are not even being appropriately compensated by TMD. Reports show that some National Guardsmen have experienced discrepancies with their pay […]. There are also reports of a “lack of cold weather equipment, body armor, first aid kits,” and even adequate sleeping facilities for those assigned to OLS. While TMD claims to have corrected the chronic under-payment issues and state they are in the process of providing the facilities and supplies necessary for the mission, it’s clear that TMD was not prepared for the sudden increase in activations required for OLS.”
“Reporting also shows that OLS-assigned troops have trespassed on private land they do not have permission to enter […]. According to an article from December 17, 2021, the National Butterfly Center’s director, Treviño Wright, has obtained photographic evidence of armed soldiers regularly going through the Center’s privately owned land even though there is a visible ‘No Trespassing’ sign at the premises. These flagrant violations of private property calls into question the authority these soldiers are acting on and whether leadership is giving these patrol groups lawful orders.”
“It is clear there are many reasons to be concerned for servicemembers supporting this mission, including the growing number of confirmed deaths by suicide that have occurred to troops on orders supporting OLS […]. The brewing mental health crisis is made worse by the fact that soldiers are able to carry their personal weapons in Texas while on state active-duty orders, which means troops supporting OLS are surrounded by firearms at almost all times. Maintaining the mental health of our servicemembers is critical and decisions attributed to OLS, like denying hardship requests, are only hampering efforts to help them.”
The lawmakers concluded the letter by expressing their concern on how OLS is severely eroding the readiness of National Guardsmen and their ability to be deployed on federal orders and urging the launch of a “full investigation into TMD’s actions related to OLS and how this mission is impacting the well-being, morale, and overall readiness of our troops so Texans can have a full accounting of what is happening to these servicemembers.”
Joining Congresswoman Escobar are all members of the Texas Democratic Congressional Delegation: Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Al Green (TX-09), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Colin Allred (TX-32), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), and Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07).
The full text of the letter can be read here.