AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The state has surged 2,500 Texas National Guardsmen to our southern border as part of Operation Lone Star, the governor’s response to the surge of migrants crossing into our state over the last several months.
The guardsmen are coordinating with law enforcement officials to mitigate the crisis, but Nexstar has received several complaints with guardsmen, detailing difficulties with exemptions and benefits.
Guardsman Dustin Rhine said when he was called to head to the border, his medical exemption after recent ankle surgery was denied.
“They were trying send me no matter what, even though my surgeon said that I couldn’t carry any the extra weight, couldn’t stand for long periods time,” Rhine explained.
He then was sent to training, where he failed his medical exam.
“It shouldn’t have ever gotten to that point,” Rhine explained.
The Texas Military Department points out, though, the process for Operation Lone Star is the same as usual.
“The Texas Military Department is aware there may be hardship situations for some service members and will review them on a case-by-case basis through service members’ chain of command,” a TMD spokesperson said.
“Every Soldier and Airmen on the mission has volunteered to serve their country and state by taking an Oath of Enlistment agreeing to obey the orders of the Governor of the state of Texas and the President of the United States in support of missions at home or abroad,” the statement continued.
Gov. Greg Abbott said these guardsmen are needed right now, as the state prepares for another migrant caravan.
“We’ve done named operation rehearsals for operations, steel curtain, that’s where we’ve identified these areas in these different task force locations. And we’ve been able to rehearse getting our equipment and our personnel to those areas so that can flop and repel any large caravans that come in,” Major Michael Perry with TMD explained during last week’s Operation Lone Star briefing.
This fall, the legislature approved $300 million to surge more guardsmen to the border.
Meanwhile, the governor required all state agencies to slash their budgets by 5%.
The Texas Military Department slashed its tuition assistance program for the 2022-23 biennium by 54%, down to $1.4 million. That’s only enough to help about 700 of the 20,000 guardsmen.
Critics of Operation Lone Star say those priorities are out of order.
“Directing them to the border, and then taking valuable benefits that they rely on for their own education, to better their lives and to better their family’s lives. It’s just completely unacceptable,” Jamarr Brown with the Texas Democratic Party said.
The length of the operation is also weighing on the state’s guardsmen.
“We’d respond to hurricane disaster or tornadoes, you’d be gone a week two, maybe three at the most, most of us can handle that,” Rhine said. “What we signed up for was maybe a month’s worth of work, not a year’s worth of work.”
There’s no clear end date for Operation Lone Star, yet.