RICHMOND, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen completed their second full week supporting Operation Lone Star July 24, 2023. The troops are staffing observation posts and conducting roving patrols along the border between Texas and Mexico to observe and detect potential illegal border crossings and criminal activities and report to Texas law enforcement authorities.
According to the website of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard are continuing to work together in OLS to secure the border and stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people into Texas as well as prevent, detect and interdict transnational criminal behavior between ports of entry.
The VNG and National Guard troops from multiple states are assisting with the mission, and as of July 21, Operation Lone Star’s multi-agency effort with multi-state National Guard support has led to more than 394,200 illegal immigrant apprehensions and 31,300 criminal arrests, as well as more than 29,100 felony charges reported. In the fight against fentanyl, Texas law enforcement has seized more than 422 million lethal doses of fentanyl during this border mission.
The VNG assembled Joint Task Force Cardinal, a group of approximately 110 Soldiers and Airmen, and they arrived in Texas July 8 for the border security support mission that is expected to last about 30 days.
“I could not be more proud of how Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have conducted themselves while on mission here in Texas,” said Maj. Sidney Leslie, commander of Task Force Cardinal. “They have been vigilant, provided timely and accurate reporting to Texas law enforcement agencies, followed all the prescribed procedures for the appropriate use of force and treated everyone they encounter with dignity and respect.”
Leslie said troop morale remains high, and they are being well taken care of.
“Our Soldiers and Airmen have bonded into strong team, and they are in high spirits knowing their time here is well spent and making a positive impact on the border security operation,” he said. “Our Texas hosts are taking good care of us, and we are taking all the proper precautions for staying safe while we conduct operations.”
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin approved the VNG troop deployment to support OLS after Virginia received requests for support to Texas via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact process. They are deploying to Texas in a state active duty status funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“I am inspired by all of you. I can’t put it any other way,” Youngkin said when he visited the troops July 6 at Fort Barfoot before their departure to Texas. “On behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for your commitment, thank you for your love of nation, and thank you for your love of the commonwealth.”
Youngkin also thanked families and acknowledged the Soldiers and Airmen will be missing out on time with loved ones while they are gone.
“I want to thank you for the sacrifice you are undertaking as we head into an extremely important mission,” he said.
Youngkin explained that when a state needs help, they “send up a flare” and say they need help via EMAC, and Virginia will answer that call.
“Someone called for help, and we are going to go help them,” he said. “That’s what this is all about. I firmly believe this is a worthy mission.”
Youngkin commended the troops for coming together from across Virginia to work as a team and acknowledged they are well prepared and well trained.
“I want you to know that we got your back,” he said. “Our nation and Virginians are grateful. We salute you.”
The VNG’s Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is the headquarters for Task Force Cardinal and will be augmented by Virginia Army and Air National Guard units based in Lynchburg, Winchester, Fredericksburg, Danville, Staunton and Hampton.
The commander of 2nd Squadron, a U.S. Army major, and a first sergeant will serve as the overall command team for the task force. Along with approximately 10 administrative and sustainment support personnel, they will liaise with the Texas Military Department throughout the duration of the mission and ensure the health and welfare of all VNG personnel on the mission.
“I know from personal experience having supported operations on the Southwest Border that border security, law enforcement and public safety organizations face tremendous challenges,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Ring, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Just as the Virginia National Guard stands ready to assist our fellow Virginians in times of need, our Soldiers and Airmen are also ready to provide assistance to other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact process and will provide requested capabilities to help our fellow Americans.”
Ring also acknowledged the team effort required to pull together the task force on short notice.
“I am incredibly proud how quickly the Virginia Army National Guard, Virginia Air National Guard, Virginia Defense Force and Virginia Department of Military Affairs all came together to make sure the service members heading to Texas have everything they need to ensure mission success,” Ring said. “We also want to thank the families and employers for their support.”
According to a May 2, 2023, statement from the Department of Homeland Security, due to an anticipated increase in migration, DHS requested that the Department of Defense augment the 2,500 military personnel currently providing support at the Southwest Border with an additional 1,500 personnel for a period of 90 days.
The statement indicated DoD personnel will be performing non-law enforcement duties such as ground based detection and monitoring, data entry and warehouse support and also indicated DoD personnel have never, and will not, perform law enforcement activities or interact with migrants or other individuals in DHS custody. DOD has supported border security operations since 2006, and VNG troops conducted multiple rotations supporting operation Jump Start.
According to National Guard Bureau, 31 states and territories provided support to the Department of Homeland Security in a federal Title 10 status during calendar year 2022. During that time, VNG Soldiers provided aviation, engineer, transportation and unmanned aerial surveillance support to the Department of Defense-approved mission assisting Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest Border.