Stand Down the Texas National Guard
Stand Down the Texas National Guard
Gov. Abbott’s Operation Lone Star knowingly subjects members of the Texas National Guard to serious abuse. The National Guard is a professional force designed to be a strategic reserve. Unique to the National Guard are state emergency missions. While the the general mission of securing the state’s border is fine, the way Operation Lone Star has been implemented has caused great harm to the Texas National Guard.
Those soldiers are clearly not being supported. In a typical activation of National Guard soldiers, the soldiers would have passed through a U.S. Army post. At that post, they would have been in-processed for pay, clothing, and gear. The current Guardsmen have had a very high percentage of pay problems. According to one report, there were over 1300 pay problems out of some 6500 soldiers activated. That works out to a pay issue ration of 20%. Yet, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it was rare to have a pay problem ratio greater than 1%.
Even worse, four soldiers committed suicide. Two of these sioldiers experienced problems with hardship waivers. Prior to October, 2021, the decision to excuse a soldier from drill or activation was made at the company level. That meant the person making a critical decision about the Guardsman and his/her family was made by persons who knew that soldier best.
But, starting in October, 2021, the Texas Guard elevated that decision to the Deputy Division commander. That means a critical “forever” sort of decision is made by someone who has never met the soldier. Clearly, elevating the decision three levels up was intended to make it harder to obtain a waiver.
As a commander in the Texas Guard, I made that sort of decision all the time. If I did not know a soldier, I asked the NCO’s who knew him/her. For a good soldier, we always found a way to help them. Those sorts of decisions must be based on personal knowledge. Any decision not based on personal knowledge is not, as we say in the Army, “taking care of soldiers.”
PFC Joshua Cortez and 1SGT Kenny Crutcher committed suicide after having trouble obtaining or keeping hardship waivers. PFC Cortez was denied a waiver after he was offered a civilian “job of a lifetime.” He missed the first opportunity for that lifetime job, due to a prior activation for a flood. In my 28 years, never, not once, did any Guard commander deny a soldier his chance at bettering himself in his civilian job. Why? As we often said in the Guard, the civilian job comes first. Unless there was a war. Otherwise, we would lose a great many soldiers. The better soldiers tend to have the better civilian jobs.
But, the border mission is not a war. Unlike deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, there is no requirement that particular slots be filled or that units attain a particular manning level. There is no reason why Operation Lone Star needed PFC Cortez. The troops would still deploy without him. They would still perform their assigned mission.
“Taking care of soldiers” has been an Army motto for decades. Soldiers need to know they will be listened to when special needs arise. Unlike what you see in the movies, each soldier is unique. Each soldier is – or should be – listened to. As we often say in the Army, we are in the “people business.”
The Texas Adjutant General is not listening to her soldiers. The TAG has not supported her soldiers. Many Guardsmen on the border still lack cold weather gear, radios, IBA's (Individual Body Armor) and first aid kits. There are no toilet facilities for many of the Guardsmen when they are on duty. The National Guard is not set up to issue large stocks of personal equipment. Not having in-processed through an Army post, they lack essential equipment.
Those omissions also reflect the lack of a Command Sergeant Major. No CSM has visited many of the soldiers on the border since the activation became mandatory last Fall. The CSM (or Sergeant Major) has the direct responsibility for the welfare and discipline of the individual soldier. S/he is also the eyes and ears of the commander. Without a CSM, the Commander will not appreciate the widespread lack of personal equipment.
Many Guardsmen report they do little. Many say they simply watch persons fishing in the Rio Grande. Operation Lone Star has many more soldiers than it needs.
I cannot over-emphasize how strange it is to make the civilian job take a back seat to the part-time military job - when war is not a factor. The Texas National Guard leadership is abusing the Texas National Guard.