AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Friday, the Texas Military Department pushed back against numerous reports of suicides, pay problems and living conditions for Texas National Guardsmen deployed with Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.
“After multiple failed attempts to correct the record with these outlets, the Texas Military Department wants to set the record straight to ensure accurate reporting on this mission,” Col. Rita Holton with TMD said.
At the end of December, Davis Winkie with the Army Times reported four guardsmen involved with Operation Lone Star died by suicide between October and November.
“The most recent was 1st Lt. Charles Williams, who died last Thursday while on a holiday pass to go home and see his family. He had been leading soldiers out there in Del Rio on the border, and was actually in the same company, in the same unit, as 1st Sgt. Kenny Crutcher, who died in November,” Winkie explained to Nexstar following his article garnering national attention.
At the time, TMD only confirmed to Nexstar that all four members had died but were under investigation. Now, TMD said in Friday’s statement:
“In regards to four service member deaths, there has been misleading and false information pushed to the public without proper context, irrespective of family sensitivities and desires. Two of the four service members mentioned by outlets were mobilized in support of Operation Lone Star. Those investigations are still ongoing. However, there is no evidence to support an assumption that their decisions were made as a direct result of hardship denials. It would be irresponsible journalism at this point in time to tie these tragedies to Operation Lone Star.”
Col. Holton’s statement goes on to say, “In calendar year 2021, out of more than 22,000 personnel, the Texas Military Department has experienced 9 suicides within our ranks. TMD leadership has met with each of the families and is providing all available resources.”
Col. Holton also addressed pay concerns.
“While there have been administrative pay challenges, currently every service member assigned to Operation Lone Star is being paid. Following Hurricane Harvey, the agency conducted a thorough after-action review,
which identified issues with the pay system the agency was using at that time,” Col. Holton said.
Based on that review, TMD rolled out a new pay system. Now, during TMD’s largest onboarding operation, TMD has been able to address gaps.
“Specifically, on Sunday, Jan. 16, Pay Strike Teams arrived along the border to support individual service members with pay questions. To date, approximately 75 percent of pay discrepancies have been resolved, to include, back pay for those who have been paid inaccurate amounts,” Col. Holton said.
The entire rebuttal can be found here, where Col. Holton also addresses COVID-19 protocols and living conditions.