Soldiers from Fort Hood are among the more than 5,200 troops that the Pentagon is sending to the U.S.-Mexico border in what military commanders say is a mission to support Homeland Security operations as a caravan of migrants from Central America makes its way north.
Military and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials announced plans Monday to increase the number of soldiers providing support for CBP personnel all along the southern border.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly warned that the thousands of migrants making their way toward the United States from southern Mexico pose a national security threat. But with the Nov. 6 midterm election nearing, the deployment has drawn criticism from some Democrats and others that the Trump administration is using the military for political purposes.
The caravan of 3,000-plus mainly Hondurans are reportedly seeking political asylum from violence, poverty, and the effects of climate change.
As part of Operation Faithful Patriot, the newly deployed active-duty soldiers will join 2,092 National Guardsmen already participating in Operation Guardian Support near the border.
Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, chief of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Tuesday that the number of deployed troops could grow beyond the 5,200 figure. O’Shaughnessy said the soldiers are coming from all branches of the U.S. armed forces, with an undisclosed number of troops from Fort Hood, home of III Corps command group.
Col. Myles B. Caggins, III Corps and Fort Hood spokesman, said in a statement that “Fort Hood personnel will provide a range of support including military police, engineering support, such as temporary barriers, barricades and fencing, logistics support to move U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel, medical teams to triage, treat and prepare for commercial transport of patients, and field feeding capability.”
“U.S. Northern Command will be in the lead for the duration of the operation and is in support of [CBP],” Caggins added.
Caggins also confirmed that a contingent from Fort Hood’s 89th Military Police Brigade and 36th Engineer Brigade are part of the mission.
Other bases that are deploying troops include Fort Knox and Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Fort Riley in Kansas, Fort Carson in Colorado, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Fort Stewart in Georgia, according to Department of Defense officials.
Rob Strain, public affairs specialist with 502nd Air Base Wing at Fort Sam Houston, told the Rivard Report on Tuesday he was unable to provide details about Joint Base San Antonio’s participation. Fort Sam Houston is home to Army North command.
“We’re not going to speculate about possible future plans or operations,” he said.
A report in Stars and Stripes, the independent U.S. military news outlet, the deployment will include the use of steel-reinforced barriers, coiled razor-wire, helicopters equipped to fly missions around the clock, and C-130 and C-17 cargo planes.
Military and CBP officials have stressed that the troops are acting in a support role and in accordance with the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which bars the use of U.S. military personnel for civilian law enforcement functions on American soil, outside military facilities.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), whose district also covers the border, said in a statement that he wants the border to be secure, but wants a longer-term solution.
“Although I believe that we need to immediately secure the border, I strongly believe that this starts with ensuring that we implement policies and utilize technology that will have long-term, significant outcomes on the area in a safe and reliable way,” Cuellar said.
“This partnership with DOD will help enhance CBP capabilities at, and between, our ports of entry. I will continue to monitor the caravan’s movement and support sensible and sustainable policies to address our border security vulnerabilities.”
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes), who represents the sprawling Texas 23rd Congressional District that includes much of the border, is locked in a tight race with Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones. He has not yet issued a statement on the border deployment.
Ortiz Jones also has not issued a formal statement since Trump’s announcement of military deployment to the border.