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Army Times Exposé Highlights Consequences of Military’s Politicized Deployment to Border

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“It feels warm and fuzzy to say that we have guys with camouflage down on the border, but it’s just politicians playing with people’s emotions.” Congressman and former Marine Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)

A detailed investigative report published in the Army Times highlights the consequences of the politicization of the National Guard’s deployment to our southern border. At a time when Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) has diverted 25% of his Department of Public Safety to a border and immigration mission and when others in the national GOP are again engaging in performative fearmongering around immigration and the border – including campaign ads depicting Republican candidates in military garb performing for the cameras – the findings expose the real world consequences of such theatre.

The Army Times story, “Death, drugs and a disbanded unit: How the Guard’s Mexico border mission fell apart,” quotes an unnamed staff officer who says, “We are literally the biggest threat to ourselves down here.” Another unnamed officer said: 

“We’re useless and CBP treats us like we’re useless. We cost the taxpayer millions of dollars in pay, benefits, per diem, hotels, [and] vehicle rentals.”

Among the key revelations and takeaways from Army Times story:

  • “When troops weren’t on duty, most were at hotels in remote locations. Alcohol and drug abuse became so widespread that senior leaders issued breathalyzers and instituted alcohol restrictions that tightened as the misconduct incidents piled up.
  • Leaders initiated more than 1,200 legal actions, including nonjudicial punishments, property loss investigations, Army Regulation 15-6 investigations and more. That’s nearly one legal action for every three soldiers. At least 16 soldiers from the mission were arrested or confined for charges including drugs, sexual assault and manslaughter. During the same time period, only three soldiers in Kuwait, a comparable deployment locale with more soldiers, were arraigned for court-martial.
  • Troops at the border had more than three times as many car accidents over the past year — at least 500 incidents totaling roughly $630,000 in damages — than the 147 “illegal substance seizures” they reported assisting.
  • One cavalry troop from Louisiana was temporarily disbanded due to misconduct and command climate issues — an extremely rare occurrence.
  • A 1,000-soldier battalion-level task force based in McAllen, Texas, had three soldiers die during the border deployment. For comparison, only three Army Guard troops died on overseas deployments in 2021, out of tens of thousands.”

Congressman and former Marine Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said:

“If we want to secure the border, 100 customs officers is better than 100 National Guardsmen … It feels warm and fuzzy to say that we have guys with camouflage down on the border, but it’s just politicians playing with people’s emotions. [The troops] don’t actually end up being effective, and you’re eroding our military capability for real threats. All you’re doing is, basically, taking [Guardsmen] away from their families [and] taking people from actual training. You’re screwing with readiness. You’re screwing with morale.”

According to Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice: 

“For the Republican Party in Texas and nationally, immigration and the border are issues to be exploited for politics, not issues to be resolved for the American people. The real consequences of this performative and politically-motivated deployment come through loud and clear in the Army Times’ disturbing story. 

We will see dozens of ads – and already have – of Republican politicians in flak jackets and camo posing for the cameras on Texas Department of Public Safety gunboats, but none of the same politicians will address the damage that border militarization does to Texas communities, Texas law enforcement, National Guard readiness or military personnel and their families across the country.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is facilitating his national Republican allies in this ugly deception. Gov. Abbott has never taken the issues affecting border residents seriously, and only goes to the region to create fear against migrants and asylum seekers. Whether it’s the power grid, COVID, crime, or now this story of a doomed, and frankly needless deployment, we know that Texans can’t rely on the leadership of Greg Abbott.

We should be very clear about who is actually using his position of power to undermine the military, National Guard and Texas law enforcement. For someone who claims to support our troops, Abbott has failed them. 

In Texas and nationally, we need leaders who bring us together, not politicians who devote all their time and attention to dividing us and sewing fear. We’re better because of our diversity and sparking fear against families seeking safety and a new life in the United States undermines our state and our nation.”