Investigation reveals disaster that unfolded after GOP governors and DOD sent troops to the border
Republican governors were so irate about the situation they perceived to be unfolding on the U.S.-Mexico border that they deployed their own National Guard troops.
What unfolded was such a disaster that even GOP officials in Congress admit that it was shocking and "reprehensible."
Military Times reporter Davis Winkie has written an extensively researched report that looks at the soldiers sent by Govs. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Doug Ducey (R-AZ), Kim Reynolds (R-IA) and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR).
Other governors sent Highway Patrol troopers or other state law enforcement agents, reported Politico in June, including Govs. Mike DeWine (R-OH) Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent both groups. These soldiers mixed with the Department of Defense deployments of soldiers from around the country.
The result, according to the report, was that "leaders initiated more than 1,200 legal actions, including non-judicial punishments, property loss investigations, Army Regulation 15-6 investigations and more."
It means that there was 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," said the Times. Compared to the same time period in Kuwait, only three soldiers were arrested or confined.
What makes matters worse is that the soldiers were sent to the border woefully ill-equipped by their state or federal government. Guard troops who took over in Oct. 2020 didn't even have night vision goggles for those working the night shift.
"This was despite units identifying the capability as a shortfall months before deploying, according to multiple sources," said the report, noting that one officer said he didn't get the NVGs until April 2021 after requesting them in July 2020.
One officer vented that his soldiers just stared into the void of the night, unable to see any of the borders they were sent to "monitor."
When there was a request for equipment, the states that sent them to the border denied it, because that equipment belonged to the states and the deployment by the governors was "a federal mission." Some troop groups were able to get items from their home state after persistent requests.
When troops weren't on duty, the investigation revealed that they were in hotels or other remote locations with alcohol and drug abuse "so widespread that senior leaders issued breathalyzers and instituted alcohol restrictions." One soldier was killed in a DUI accident in September.
"Troops at the border had more than three times as many car accidents over the past year," the report continued. There were also "at least 500 incidents totaling roughly $630,000 in damages — than the 147 'illegal substance seizures' they reported assisting."
"A 1,000-soldier battalion-level task force based in McAllen, Texas, had three soldiers die during the border deployment," the report also revealed. "For comparison, only three Army Guard troops died on overseas deployments in 2021, out of tens of thousands."
To make matters worse, they rarely even encountered migrants. Those in Loredo, Texas never saw any. Sites near Wilcox, Arizona spotted 21 over a year.
Those there were so miserable that there was were at least 34 cases of "suicidal ideation," during the year.
"In one case, a Puerto Rico National Guard soldier slipped away from her unit, caught a flight home and sought inpatient psychiatric care," said the report.
Drugs like cocaine and fentanyl were spotted in drug tents, military justice reports said. One soldier tried to pick up a kilogram of cocaine to take to his colleagues at a McAllen, Texas hotel. While that story made national news, there were "dozens more soldiers [who] either tested positive for drugs or were arrested by civilian law enforcement agencies."
Most of the misconduct allegations and three of the deaths happened in McAllen as part of Task Force Southeast. The headquarters of that group was in the Alabama 877th Engineer Battalion. So many soldiers were at the border that it left the Alabama headquarters "half-staffed." The medical officer left mid-deployment.
A lot of problems and two deaths came from the Louisiana National Guard: D Company, 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment; and A Troop, 2nd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment. They were trained to go to Iraq, but they were at the border instead.
It left both companies with a "severe shortage of qualified [noncommissioned officers]."
“Without the proper amount of NCOs, it made it harder to keep them from doing dumb shit,” said one officer. “[The units] had a lot of soldiers that shouldn’t have been there.”
Finally, one soldier couldn't take it anymore. The person penned a kind of manifesto, slipping it under every door in his brigade headquarters.
“Someone please wave the white flag and send us all home,” the letter begged. “I would like to jump off a bridge headfirst into a pile of rocks after seeing the good ol’ boy system and f*cked up leadership I have witnessed here.”
“We are literally the biggest threat to ourselves down here,” said one staff officer who was part of the mission.
“We could be saving billions of dollars if we actually funded [Customs and Border Protection] instead of using the Guard as a Band-Aid,” said another officer who served in 2020. “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.”