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Amidst Useless Border Deployment, Demoralized and Isolated Guards Fell into Drugs and Other Misconduct

Governor Kristi Noem claims that her pimping out of our National Guard to go hang around the border in Texas last summer made some sort of difference in crime and national security. We know Noem’s deployment was a largely misdirected excuse for campaign photo ops. But a new investigative report in the Army Times finds that the Guard deployment cobbled together by South Dakota and several other states was a sloppy operation that led to crime and demoralization among our part-time troops:

Among Army Times’ findings:

  • When troops weren’t on duty, most were at hotels in remote locations. Alcohol and drug abuse became so widespread that senior leaders issued breathalyzers and instituted alcohol restrictions that tightened as the misconduct incidents piled up.
  • Leaders initiated more than 1,200 legal actions, including nonjudicial punishments, property loss investigations, Army Regulation 15-6 investigations and more. That’s nearly one legal action for every three soldiers. At least 16 soldiers from the mission were arrested or confined for charges including drugs, sexual assault and manslaughter. During the same time period, only three soldiers in Kuwait, a comparable deployment locale with more soldiers, were arraigned for court-martial.
  • Troops at the border had more than three times as many car accidents over the past year — at least 500 incidents totaling roughly $630,000 in damages — than the 147 “illegal substance seizures” they reported assisting.
  • One cavalry troop from Louisiana was temporarily disbanded due to misconduct and command climate issues — an extremely rare occurrence.
  • A 1,000-soldier battalion-level task force based in McAllen, Texas, had three soldiers die during the border deployment. For comparison, only three Army Guard troops died on overseas deployments in 2021, out of tens of thousands [Davis Winkie, “Death Drugs and a Disbanded Unit: How the Guard’s Mexico Border Mission Fell Apart,” Army Times, 2021.12.08].

And while Kristi went to What-a-Burger for pop and pix, one wayward Alabama Guardsman went to What-a-Burger to get cocaine for his Task Force Phoenix comrades:

Illicit drugs, including cocaine and fentanyl, also appeared in TF Phoenix’s drug tests, according to military justice reports and a source familiar with the unit’s drug testing.

The most notable incident occurred in September when an on-duty soldier from the Alabama National Guard allegedly tried to pick up a kilogram of cocaine to transport to a McAllen hotel that housed fellow soldiers.

According to federal court records, Spc. Derrick Sankey arrived at a Whataburger in Hidalgo, Texas, wearing his uniform and driving a marked CBP pickup truck. Undercover Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested him as soon as he accepted the cocaine from them.

Sankey’s arrest made headlines, but dozens more soldiers either tested positive for drugs or were arrested by civilian law enforcement agencies, according to the military justice blotters and incident reports [Winkie, 2021.12.08].

And here Noem told us she was sending the National Guard to Texas to fight illegal drugs. Oops.

The Army Times report doesn’t specify any South Dakota troops involved in misconduct. But the lack of clear mission and the widespread troubles into which demoralized troops got during Task Force Phoenix makes it sound like the best way to support the troops is to stop Kristi Noem from sending them on feckless photo ops.


  1. larry kurtz 2021-12-13 07:33

    Republicans: cops on horseback whipping refugees are heroes.

    Also Republicans: cops who defended the Capitol during Donald Trump’s attempted coup are traitors.

    After being brutalized by riders on horseback in Texas some fifty Haitian asylum seekers are subjected to dire circumstances and denied access to legal counsel while detained at a private prison complex contracted in Estancia, New Mexico by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Marshals Service.

    In May, the ACLU and several other immigrants rights groups filed suit after refugees on a hunger strike were attacked by guards using chemical weapons.

    Tens of thousands of long-suffering Haitians have made the nightmare journey through Central America only to end up in facilities like the one owned by Tennessee-based CoreCivic in Torrance County that received a rating of noncompliance in July. ICE refuses to respond to allegations of human rights abuses and it’s unknown if CoreCivic will face any consequences for its failures to meet even basic human needs.

  2. Richard Schriever 2021-12-13 08:31

    The all-volunteer US military is of a more dubious character to a conscripted one in general. What the founding fathers knew of “professional” soldiers back in the day, what informed them in their rejection of maintaining a standing army – was precisely this. The character flaws associated with professional soldiering have long been known and hold as true today as they did in the 18th century.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-12-13 09:16

    Moar proof that magats are incapable of running anything. They don’t do oversight, unless it is of women of child bearing age. They can’t investigate anything. We are seeing more proof with each revelation from John Durham alleged investigation into investigators of Russian influence over drumpf. They certainly can’t investigate themselves. As I have said before, when Dems are tasked with investigating miscreants, they appoint right wing lawyers to investigate. When magats investigate Dems, they, too, appoint even harder right wing magats to investigate. and still can’t get serious convictions.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-12-13 10:57

    Maybe Kristi just read A Border Affair by Badger Clark. It was made into a great song. “Spanish is the loving tongue” sung by everyone, even Dylan. He’s the first South Dakota poet. I bought some of his first editions and in one he inscribed a poem to a Myra Knowlton from Hot Springs at her high school commencement. He must have been a hustler, he was a poet after all.. This was in 1918 so I don’t mind using her name. I looked her up and she died a few years ago in Florida, hence my buy. So I have an unknown Badger Clark poem, one of a kind South Dakotan’s. I should send this copy to his museum in the hills. Its a small place his old cabin I believe, but I’m not sure how permanent it is.

  5. jerry 2021-12-13 11:00

    Solution: Cut the military in half. We keep losing wars and yet we reward the losers with more and more defense spending, like that will make a difference. Legalize drugs to the extent of a mental health issue. Fix the damn roads and do more for the public.

  6. jerry 2021-12-13 11:54

    40,000 of these deadbeat, no ordering following troops, should be given their marching orders off the bases immediately. They were ordered to take the covid vaccine and are refusing. That means they are putting the entire force at risk. Dumping them, would save taxpayers several billion and it would put these guys in the real workforce. If they can’t follow orders, they can take orders from the private sector. Not our problem then.

    Return the draft, the volunteer experiment is over, and like it’s been since it started, a failure.

  7. Porter Lansing 2021-12-13 14:06

    Good story, Mark. :0)

  8. Mark Anderson 2021-12-13 15:20

    Thanks Porter, I used to buy signed first editions by all my favorite poets. works wonders. However I started using certain lines as titles for my work and that ruined my reading of the work. I still have some great books that were at least touched by the poet. Missed out on a few. The one I really blew was a signed edition of Dylan Thomas’s work that was in the collection of Theodore Roethke. Both their signatures. It came about when Thomas gave a reading on the west coast and spent the evening at the Roethkes. I would love to have been a fly the wall, a fly with good hearing and a brain, maybe like the movie the fly.

  9. 96Tears 2021-12-13 17:00

    Pulling the National Guard away from the hands of greedy, crazed Governors may be necessary, and not because an idiot like Noem pimps out our state Guard to curry favor with a fat cat donor and get photo-ops to boot. This is from CNN today: “Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent an email saying the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ in the lead up to the US Capitol insurrection, according to a new report released by the January 6 committee Sunday night.”

    The crooked GOP power mongers apparently favor sheer power over responsible governing, and believe their offices entitle them to abuse state and federal treasuries for their amusement. The Trump White House and Nucklehead Noem see our citizen soldiers as a Palace Guard to dispense as they wish.

    I recall that the National Guard couldn’t be mustered until late in the day on Jan. 6 to rescue members of Congress and others. Apparently, they had other orders from the Commander in Chief. Stand down and stay ready to attack the Capitol Police.

    The price to pay for this level of treason used to be death after a lightening quick trial.

  10. grudznick 2021-12-13 18:00

    Yeah! The National Guard should be under the control of bloggers!! Oh, what. Maybe that’s not such a good idea.
    But bloggers probably have formed militias and roving goon squads, stoked with libbie hate and wearing preppy clothes.

  11. jerry 2021-12-13 19:02

    A simple yes or no question. Will he answer though Mr. Lansing?

  12. Porter Lansing 2021-12-13 19:37

    @ Mark Anderson … that’s a very cool theme, for entitling your work, which I find fascinating.

    Especially the Longboat Key exhibition.

    Keep up the good spirits. :0)

    “no ideas but in things.”

  13. John 2021-12-13 21:00

    Richard’s note gives us our infrequent reminder of why the US Constitution has a 3d Amendment.
    The British Sergeant Major knocking at your door, entering uninvited, quickly surveying the capabilities, then telling you how many British privates and corporals that you would quarter for how long. These armed, strong, youthful terrors would then eat you out of house and home, rape your wife and daughters, bugger your sons, (and sometimes you).
    An all volunteer military comprises too much self-service verses service to a nation. An all volunteer military on nonsense missions will find ways to entertain themselves since their motivation is not national service. Our Founding Fathers opposed a standing army for good, historical, practical, and human cultural reasons.

  14. jerry 2021-12-13 21:19

    Air Force just gives the boot to those who disobey orders. Good start to weed out those that place themselves a priority over their oath to the country. Plenty of jobs out there though, but you have to follow orders.

    “WASHINGTON (AP) — The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots.

    The Air Force gave its forces until Nov. 2 to get the vaccine, and thousands have either refused or sought an exemption. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Monday that these are the first airmen to be administratively discharged for reasons involving the vaccine.”

    Same should apply to the military outlaws sent to the border. Give’m the boot.

  15. Arlo Blundt 2021-12-13 22:17

    Thank goodness that our South Dakota troops survived that political ordeal without any reported damage to their lives.

  16. jerry 2021-12-13 22:46

    We don’t know that Mr. Blundt. Without Cory’s reporting, we wouldn’t have known what a huge mess this was on the border. The fact is NOem endangered these troops for craven political reasons and may well have been bribed to do it as well. They were bought and paid for by a private citizen, a junk dealer, more or less, like trump is now.

    After hearing what Liz Cheney said about the texts from Fox News to Mark Meadows, makes you wonder who the guard actually works for.

  17. cibvet 2021-12-13 23:59

    These military anti-vaxers should be getting an undesireable discharge. Let them tote that around for the rest of their lives or until someone like con man, draft-dodging trump pardons them.

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