A National Guardsman stands guard at a fence that runs along the Rio Grande near the International bridge, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas.
A Texas National Guard soldier assigned to the US-Mexico border mission was killed in an accidental shooting on Monday.
He is the 6th soldier to die on this mission since October 2021, and all of these deaths can be attributed to use of a personal firearm.
The mission has been plagued by pay issues, low morale and a wave of suicides.
A Texas National Guard soldier assigned to the US-Mexico border mission was killed in an accidental shooting on Monday, according to the Texas Military Department, renewing scrutiny of Texas’ massive mobilization last year to assist law enforcement in a mission that’s been rife with morale problems.
The soldier is the second Texas Guardsman assigned to Gov. Greg Abbott’s border mission, Operation Lone Star, to die in an accidental shooting since the start of 2022 when another soldier accidentally killed himself in an alcohol-related incident; a third soldier survived a suicide attempt the first week of January, according to a report from Army Times.
The soldier, whose identity has not been released, was sitting in a parked car at Fort Clark Springs where his unit was doing swim training when he handed his hand gun to a soldier sitting in the back seat. The gun accidentally fired as the second soldier was taking it, sending a round through the seat and into the first soldier’s back, according to Army Times. The soldier was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the state’s top general. “We are focused on supporting the Soldier’s family and are providing all available resources.”
He is the sixth soldier from Operation Lone Star to die since October 2021, and all of these fatalities are attributed to use of a personal firearm. Operation Lone Star troops are permitted to use their personal firearms due to Texas’ strong firearm rights.
Operation Lone Star launched in March 2021, sending thousands of Texas guardsmen and state troopers to the US-Mexico border where they have the authority to arrest anyone under suspicion of trespassing on private and state property.
The mission has been plagued by pay issues, low morale and a wave of suicides. In the fall of 2021, the mission expanded from 1,000 volunteers to a mandatory mobilization of up to 10,000 members of the Texas Military Department, according to reporting by Texas Tribune and Military Times.
Service members told Military Times they are struggling with shortages of critical equipment, living in cramped trailers and feel “bored” and underutilized.
Four of the six soldiers who have died since October died by suicide and a fifth soldier survived a suicide attempt in January. When Abbott faced criticism over the mission and soldiers well-being he said the comments were “very hurtful” and critics were just “playing politics.”
During a campaign stop in San Antonio in January, Abbott said people should be more focused on military suicides under President Joe Biden.
“If they are saying something about what’s happening to the National Guard in Texas, why are they not at the very same time saying something about President Biden and having lost hundreds of members of the U.S. military … to suicide?” Abbott said. “Why are they silent about that? The answer — they’re just playing politics. The life of a soldier is far more valuable than the words of a politician playing politics.”
Military & Defense, News, Texas, border, Operation Lone Star, National Guard, Death
All Content from Business Insider