On Border, Questions Over National Guard Troops' Needs

Democrats say media reports that some National Guard troops on the border haven't been paid and can't afford basic necessities are infuriating. Republican Gov. Rick Perry's office says the National Guard is fully equipped to help them.

Governor Rick Perry gives a pep talk to National Guard troops training for deployment to the Texas border at Camp Swift on August 13, 2014.
Governor Rick Perry gives a pep talk to National Guard troops training for deployment to the Texas border at Camp Swift on August 13, 2014.  Bob Daemmrich

After media reports in the Rio Grande Valley suggested that some National Guard troops dispatched by Gov. Rick Perry to the border hadn't received their checks and were unable to pay for basic necessities, Democrats saw an opening. 

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis sent out a press release saying she would visit the Rio Grande Valley on Saturday to deliver food to National Guard troops.

“Whether you agree that we need the National Guard or the additional deputy sheriffs that I have previously called for to secure the border, it is shameful that our troops would be sent to keep us safe without basic supplies like food,” Davis said.

 

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Perry announced last month that he was sending up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border to respond to a surge of undocumented immigrants illegally crossing the border, at a cost to the state of about $12 million a month.

State Rep. Jose Menedez, D-San Antonio, the chairman of the House Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, said that volunteers from the National Guard's soldier and family support services contacted a food bank on behalf of the Guard units. The food bank was identified as a “resource for soldiers who needed food” or other goods while they wait on their paychecks, he said, adding that while Guard members are allotted $36 per day for food, they must pay out of pocket until they are paid.

“The problem here is that the state is deploying them and not asking ‘Hey, are you going to be OK until your check comes?’,” he said.

On Friday, Perry's office said the National Guard was fully equipped to assist any soldier who needs help covering their costs.

"Gov. Perry is confident the Guard stands ready to assist any soldier who may need it, regardless of deployment or duty status, so they can meet the needs of their family, or the mission they are performing," Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said.

In a statement, the National Guard said the well-being of its troops is a top priority. 

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"All members supporting the operation are furnished with lodging, meals, transportation and the equipment required to perform their mission," the National Guard said in a statement. "Service members supporting this operation receive pay, allowance for housing and per diem for meals on the normal state payroll schedule."

For Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte, that was not convincing. She called the deployment "nothing but a political ploy: there is no request from local leaders for this mission, no exit strategy or even a plan to pay for it." 

"Today, we learn that our men and women of the Guard have been forced to contact food banks to feed themselves because
they haven’t been paid in weeks," she added. "This is unacceptable."