An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

National Guard SEA Thanks Texas Guardsmen on Border Mission

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Pena,
  • Texas Military Department, Public Affairs

HARLINGEN, Texas - Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony L. Whitehead, the senior enlisted advisor for the chief, National Guard Bureau, visited Texas National Guardsmen at the Texas-Mexico border over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Whitehead serves as the chief’s principal military adviser on all enlisted matters affecting training, utilization, the health of the force, and enlisted professional development. As the highest enlisted level of National Guard leadership, he provides direction for the enlisted force and represents their interests.

“The purpose of the visit was to check on our Soldiers and Airmen working on Operation Lone Star,” Whitehead said. “They’re Guardsmen, and I wanted to make sure that we had an opportunity to speak to them about their thoughts and ideas about the mission, how they were doing, how they felt about how the mission was going and any ideas that I needed to take back to the chief of the National Guard Bureau.”

Operation Lone Star is a state-led mission to respond to increased illegal immigration on the Texas-Mexico border. In May 2021, Texas issued a disaster declaration covering 48 counties, primarily along or near the border. Approximately 6,000 service members are currently deployed to support Operation Lone Star.

During his visit Nov. 22-24, SEA Whitehead met with different units and components to get a full picture of the various mission sets of the state active-duty members. That included riding on a Texas State Guard center console boat used by Task Force East, known as the ‘river unit,’ for the border mission.

“Task Force East is responsible for four zones in the McAllen sector of the border. Our unit is specifically responsible for the river,” said Texas Army National Guard Capt. Mike Jones, commander of the TF East team. “Today, we were showcasing some of the highlights of both the Mexico and U.S. side, such as landmarks, key areas the cartel uses and Border Patrol use, you know, in the whole cat and mouse game of border security.”

Soldiers assigned to the river unit received recognition coins from Whitehead for their work on the border and talked about their experiences on the mission with him.

“The Southwest border mission is a unique mission to the United States,” Whitehead said. “For our Soldiers and Airmen doing the mission, this has been talked about a lot, and I think sometimes we forget that we’ve got people down there 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

As part of his priority to seek opportunities for innovation and advancement within the ranks, Whitehead asked service members to provide feedback to take back to the Pentagon.

“The visit was so great for my Soldiers,” Jones said. “These guys [and gals] are all highly motivated to begin with, but having leadership from NGB come down and see what they do on a day-to-day basis is a big deal.”

Unit leaders also briefed Whitehead on the morale of the Texas Guardsmen, noting an 86 percent volunteer rate for troops wishing to stay on the mission. These extension requests, leaders said, can be attributed to the pay incentives, time off to spend with family and the unique border mission. The Guard members can work in different units alongside partners like the Border Patrol Department of Public Safety.

Whitehead said he was impressed with the service members’ work and commitment to the greater good.

“One of the best things I liked about what I heard was that they have been here long enough to see the difference they have made in what they’ve been doing,” he said. “So, despite some of the things they’ve heard regarding the negative social media or negative press, they know that there’s been a positive difference in what they have been doing since they’ve been here.”

Asked why he visited during Thanksgiving, Whitehead said he wanted to ensure the Soldiers and Airmen know military leaders in Washington are mindful of their 24/7 commitment.

“When the holidays come around, I don’t know if people have the impression that things are halted because of it or that they are just comforted that we have military members down there on the Texas-Mexico border,“ he said. “Some of our Guardsmen have families that they’re separated from, that’s not just those deployed overseas but those deployed right here in the U.S.,

“So, it’s important for the chief of the National Guard Bureau, myself, and the rest of the leadership team to go down and tell them thank you for what they’re doing. We appreciate what they’re doing, and we must let them know they’re standing in a gap that’s extremely important to our nation’s security.”