The soldier, who was on activate orders to support the mission at the border, accidentally shot himself on Saturday, just days after another soldier assigned to the mission survived a suicide attempt between Christmas and New Year’s Day, according to a report from the Army Times.
The incidents come as approximately 10,000 members of the Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard are being faced with a growing moral crisis while on activations at the border with Mexico, leading the Joint Task Force Lone Star’s chaplains to launch a force-wide “morale survey” earlier this week.
Units assigned to the border mission have seen a surge in suspected suicides in recent months, with the Army Times reporting that four soldiers are suspected of committing suicide between November and December of last year.
“The [Texas Military Department]’s leadership has lost focus on what matters most, and that’s the soldier,” retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Featherston, who previously served as the Texas Army National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, told the Army Times last month. “Their inability to focus on the individual soldiers’ needs has cost several lives, and until they [focus], more tragedies will continue to happen.”
The soldiers assigned to the border mission are supporting the Texas Department of Public Safety and were activated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, as illegal crossings have surged under the Biden administration.
The rapid mobilization of troops has led to a host of issues, such as interruptions to civilian life, crowded living quarters, and pay issues.
The issues have critics calling the mission into question, including retired Army Lt. Col. and former GOP Florida Rep. Allen West, who has called for leadership to resign over such failures.
“Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris: if you have any honor, integrity, or character whatsoever, you should immediately submit your resignation,” West said of the Texas Guard’s top general.
The suicides and incidents caught the attention of former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas, who said the trend is “devastating.”
“This devastating string of suicides must serve as a wake-up call to the way that our Guard members are being treated at the border,” O’Rourke said. “The warning signs have been there from the beginning.”
The Biden administration has overseen a historic surge in illegal crossings at the border, with an estimated 1.7 million crossing during his first fiscal year in office. That ended on October 1, 2021, but the surge has continued. Biden himself has yet to visit the border, while his border czar, Vice President Kamala Harris, only visited once, and that was to El Paso, Texas, hundreds of miles from the epicenter of the border crisis.