Three leaders of the Texas border mission leave their positions

Three leaders of the Texas border mission leave their positions

Isabel Webb Carey
Isabel Webb Carey
|
March 18, 2022

Three leaders of the Texas border mission have departed this week, signaling change to the department that has faced months of heavy criticism.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday the replacement of Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris with Maj. Gen Thomas M. Suelzer as leader of the Texas Military Department. Norris has been widely criticized for her handling of the highly touted border mission since beginning her three-year tenure in 2019. There have been widespread complaints over pay issues, poor living conditions and a lack of appropriate gear for troops on the mission that stem from the rapid expansion of Operation Lone Star last fall. Norris and the department were also criticized after several service members tied to the operation died by suicide. Among the most vocal critics was Allen West— one of several Republican opponents Abbott beat in this month’s gubernatorial primary—who called for Norris’ resignation in January.

In his statement, Abbott thanked Norris for her service, though declined to comment on her recent struggles.

“General Norris faithfully served the Texas Military Department with dignity, as Adjutant General beginning in January 2019, as Assistant Adjutant General in 2016, and over her decades of service,” Abbott said in a statement. “I thank General Norris for her exceptional service to the State of Texas and am honored to appoint her successor, Major General Thomas Suelzer, as the Adjutant General of Texas. General Suelzer brings a wealth of military experience to this new role, and I am confident that he will uphold the integrity of the Texas Military Department and exemplify servant leadership throughout every aspect of this position.”

Less than 72 hours later, Maj. Gen. Charles Aris, the commander of the 36th Infantry Division, and Maj. Gen. James “Red” Brown, Norris’ civilian chief of staff, left their positions. 

After beginning last March with 500 volunteer National Guard service members, Operation Lone Star has since undergone massive expansion. In September, Abbott deployed about 10,000 service members and dedicated billions of dollars to stem an increase in migrants crossing the Texas-Mexico border. However, the operation has been mired in controversy as National Guard troops have called it a disaster, citing deplorable living conditions, a lack of appropriate gear and problems receiving their pay on time. Service members have also drawn attention to the lack of clear mission and described feeling as if they are being used as “political pawns” for Abbott’s reelection campaign. In light of this criticism, therefore, the departure of three top officials in a week signals that officials may be looking to make changes to the heavily criticized mission.

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Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey attends the University of Texas at Austin in the Plan II Honors Program with a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas. Her interests include education, local governance, sustainability, and equity. Isabel enjoys dancing, hiking, and live music. She is also a staff writer for the Texas Orator. Email her at isabelwebbcarey@gmail.com
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