Texas state lawmakers are concerned about reports that National Guard members who were deployed to the southern border have experienced pay delays and poor working conditions, with several guard members recently dying by suicide, The Texas Tribune reported.
The Army Times during the past three months has chronicled habitual pay problems for guard members and reported on suicides by soldiers tied to the border mission, according to the Tribune.
Allen West, a former Florida congressman now running for Texas governor, on Tuesday criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's handling of the National Guard's border mission and called on leadership to resign.
A former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, West said soldiers had contacted him to discuss unsanitary conditions in camps and a lack of proper equipment.
The Tribune reported that a written statement attributed to the Texas Military Department (TMD) said only two of the four soldiers who died by suicide according to the Army Times "were on orders in support of Operation Lone Star [OLS]."
The Army Times on Dec. 23 reported that one solider who died by suicide was denied a hardship release, and another was on temporary hardship waiver when he died.
"It would be a grave assumption to tie these unfortunate incidents to OLS mission as there are many variables which lead to suicide," the department's statement read, the Tribune reported.
"One suicide within our ranks is one too many, and we all grieve for those who are left behind. In such complex situations, a person’s decision to take this desperate measure is again, the result of numerous factors."
The Republican governor in August authorized the Texas National Guard to arrest people who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border and violate state law.
The Tribune reported that a TMD spokesperson said all service members should be receiving paychecks and detailed pay stubs as of Tuesday. Brandon Jones, press secretary for the TMD, added that the department was made aware of unsanitary conditions at some locations that did not have portable restrooms, but that the "scope of the challenge is not large."
State Sen. César Blanco, D-El Paso, said he was concerned that guard members were not being given hardship releases and were being activated involuntarily after having served on other missions related to COVID-19, starting in 2020.
"Most of these folks are prior service or have agreed to serve part-time. But these deployments both with Operation Lone Star and COVID — these guys and gals are out there for three [consecutive] years," said Blanco, a Navy veteran, the Tribune reported.
"That's not what they signed up for. If they wanted to do that, they would have gone active duty."
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