Posts in Category: Operation Lone Star

Texas National Guard engineers continue to secure the Texas-Mexico border

Soldier setting up fence Soldier working on fence

Texas National Guard engineers continue to secure the Texas-Mexico border


MCALLEN, Texas – Texas National Guard Engineer Special Response Teams this week installed a new anti-climb barrier near Brownsville, Texas to further the agency’s effort to stem the flow of illegal crossings.

In recent months, around Eagle Pass and Brownsville, illegal border crossers have damaged existing wire and barriers to gain access to Texas. The engineers repaired the damaged sections of barrier while operational personnel blocked entry and provided security for the construction operations. The damage to the barrier continues to occur daily. 

The Engineer Special Response Teams are now installing a new barrier to reinforce the areas of high-traffic illegal crossings. The teams are installing an anti-climb barrier behind the reinforced wire areas. The barrier also has barbed wire and concertina wire attached as to prevent climbing over with a ladder or other scaling device. 

“The Brownsville area is seeing a lot of bad actors coming across the river and cutting our existing C-wire barrier,” said Capt. Chris Daniel, SRT-1 officer in charge. “The ACB barrier will allow Task Force South [National Guard] and law enforcement partners more time to respond to the breaches to apprehend the bad actors.”

The environment surrounding the Rio Grande River dictates how the barriers are installed, according to Daniel. In El Paso, where fencing operations have been ongoing, illegal border crossings are blocked by multiple layers of the wire arrayed in wide open areas of high-volume traffic. The wire is used to funnel illegal migrants to staging areas where they are turned back to Mexico.

    Since the beginning of the mission, the engineers have installed over 82 miles of concertina wire and reinforced over 27 miles of that wire. Additionally, almost 73 miles of chain-linked fencing has been installed to secure private and public property in the border region.
The Texas National Guard is dedicated to preventing, deterring and interdicting transnational criminal activity, in conjunction with our state and local partners, along the Texas and Mexico border.  


Texas National Guard Secures Dangerous Island

A cleared piece of land near the Rio Grande

FRONTON, Texas – The Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety have secured an island along the US and Mexico border, long considered one of the most dangerous areas in the Rio Grande Valley.

The Texas National Guard and its law enforcement partners were no strangers to the area near the small community of Fronton, and its formerly lawless island in the Rio Grande. The island has long been known as an area for cartel smuggling operations involving narcotics, weapons, money and high-value individuals. The densely-wooded area provided concealment for trans-national criminal activity, and has been a problem for decades according to law enforcement familiar with the area.

Operation Lone Star Guardsmen began securing the island and denying access to cartels in early October. Security operations cleared the area of criminals to protect Guardsmen there. Extensive brush clearing and road construction was completed by Guard engineers followed by installing triple-strand concertina wire along the equipment

“Our engineer teams installed over 1.4 miles of wire along the Texas-Mexico border,” said Sgt. Jake Jordan, Joint Task Force Lone Star Special Response Team platoon sergeant. “The project was executed in a timely and safe manner, and provides not only the wire blocking obstacle, but allows Guard and law enforcement freedom of maneuver around the entire island.”

Although illicit narcotics and weapons smuggling had been the primary use of the area in recent years, cartel organizations had recently begun escorting large groups of illegal immigrants in the Fronton area, using the island to enter the U.S. without detection. The clearing project and concertina-wire obstacles help prevent these large groups from crossing illegally, according to OLS officials.Concertina wire fence

“Clearing the 170 plus acres of heavy brush by our engineers will provide excellent visibility of the island down to the Rio Grande River,” said Lt. Col. Johnny Guerrero, Joint Task Force Lone Star Chief of Staff. “That visibility will allow our security points and law enforcement partners to observe illegal smuggling prior to crossing the river.”

Fronton Island has been transformed from a criminal haven to a safe area of operations to protect Texas from illegal drugs, weapons and human trafficking. Texas National Guard skill, manpower and resources are directly contributing to the safety of Texas.

Border Czar visits Texas National Guard

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas –Texas Border Czar, Mike Banks, toured Texas National Guard emplacements and fortified positions along the Rio Grande River near Brownsville, February 2023. Governor Greg Abbott appointed Banks to be his special advisor on border matters in January. 

“Human trafficking and drug smuggling are big problems at Texas’ southern border,” said Banks, who worked for over 20 years as a border patrol agent. “Operation Lone Star is essential for the safety and security of Texans.”

During his tour, Banks met with myriad of troops involved in several different facets of Operation Lone Star. 

“I wanted to come to speak with the Airmen and Soldiers on the frontlines to find out what resources and tools are working the best to stem illegal immigration,” said Banks. “We are going to expand our infrastructure and utilize advanced technology to continue to curb criminal activity at our border.”

Banks asked questions and also answered questions from Operation Lone Star Guardsmen. 

“He gave us great insight into how the mission will unfold moving forward and how it continues to evolve in a positive way. It was a big morale boost,” said TSgt Bryan LaCour, the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Standards and Evaluations in Task Force South. “We have been hearing about the Border Czar--and now being able to put a face with the name, and having some questions answered helped troops to see the big picture of border security and stay laser-focused on the job.”

Operation Lone Star has led to more than 350,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions, over 24,000 criminal arrests, and more than 362 million deadly fentanyl doses seized. 

Cartels are trying to take advantage of border patrol agents by overwhelming them with mass illegal migration, creating a diversion so drug smugglers and criminal aliens can sneak into Texas according to Banks who said Texas National Guardsmen are doing all they can to fill in the gaps. 

“We are keeping Texans safe by apprehending illegal aliens and properly processing them, so we know who is trying to enter our country, we will not allow criminals to overrun our border,” said Banks. “I am extremely honored to be in this position and appreciate our guardsmen working to protect our border, this is truly Texans serving Texans.”

Airmen seize drugs, capture smugglers

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas—Airmen from the Texas Air National Guard detected and apprehended three drug smugglers near Brownsville, Texas, February 19, 2023. The Guardsmen seized 112 pounds of cannabis with a street value of $89,000 from the smugglers who illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico.

The Guardsmen used advanced day and night optics to help spot the suspected drug smugglers illegally crossing the Rio Grande River. The Guardsmen routinely provide unique skills and equipment to assist partner agencies detecting and preventing illegal activity.

“The situation began to unfold when our Border Patrol partners let us know they saw some suspicious activity near the border,” said Staff Sergeant Santos Flores, a Special Operations team member in Task Force South. “So, I formulated a plan on how our team could operate tactically and stealthily, putting us in the best position to apprehend the drug traffickers.”

The Airmen volunteered for Operation Lone Star and work side-by-side Texas Department of Public Safety and other law enforcement partners to deter criminal activity from spilling across the Texas – Mexico border.

Texas National Guard Expands Operations to West Texas

The Texas National Guard expanded Operation Lone Star to the far western city of El Paso. The movement of personnel, equipment and capabilities was in response to the unprecedented number of illegal border crossings in the area.

“I am so impressed with the OLS staff as well as the Soldiers from Task Force West,” said Maj. Gen. Ronald “Win” Burkett, Operation Lone Star Commanding Officer. “Over 400 personnel and 40 vehicles were repositioned in El Paso within a 72-hour time frame.”  

The Guard can flex capabilities, equipment, and personnel anywhere along the border within a 72-hour window. The Texas Air National Guard provided four C-130J Hercules aircraft to expedite travel of personnel and vehicles to the far western region, and tactical troop movements took place all over Texas. 

Proof of the Guard’s effectiveness against the numbers of illegal crossings is becoming more and more obvious with each passing day.

 Day 1: Military vehicles, Soldiers, and concertina wire rolled onto the Rio Grande River’s edge. Only a few onlookers stood on the other side watching the activity. It was early in the morning and bitter cold. Within four-hours the number of onlookers increased, but no one challenged the swift work of Soldiers uncoiling the concertina wire.

Near nightfall, almost 500 immigrants stood at the wire asking the seven armed Soldiers to let them in. The crowd was made up of immigrants from Argentina, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, Russia, and Venezuela; men and women, both alone and with children, tried pleading, chanting, and singing. Law enforcement partners also explained the process for entering the United States legally and still the crowd stayed. 

Day 2: The immigrants dissipated, leaving in the direction of the next legal crossing area.  Soldiers stood behind the concertina wire with only occasional conversation across the river answering immigrants’ questions of where they go now. 

The Triple strand concertina wire, with armed personnel and military vehicles, and fast fencing has turned the once illegal fast-path into a ghost town. 

The Texas Department of Emergency Management also installed shipping containers to help deter illegal crossings. The Texas Department of Public Safety emplaced vehicle and officers, also working the line with the Soldiers. 

The National Guard’s El Paso operation is now an enduring mission, as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to secure Texas’ southern border. The region will have over 600 troops and 100 military vehicles to support our law enforcement partners in this mission. 

The mission remains for the Guardsmen to assist law enforcement partners to block and repel illegal crossings, as well as to interdict trans-national criminal activity from spilling across the border.

Operation Lone Star Brings Medical Care to the Valley

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Eric Walden, Texas State Guard Public Affairs

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Texas State Guard’s involvement in Operation Lone Star.  Operation Lone Star is a collaborative medical services project that unites state and county health and human service agencies, the Texas Military Department, local service groups and volunteers in the largest public health humanitarian effort in the country. OLS is a real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise that provides medical service and disaster recovery training to state agencies and personnel while addressing the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents.

Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.
Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.

Each summer since 1998, OLS provides medical care at no cost to residents of the Rio Grande Valley. For many residents, it is the only medical care they receive all year. For elements of the Texas State Guard and its Texas Medical Brigade/Medical Component Command, it is a vital training mission that offers hands-on experience in mass medical care in partnership with local public health authorities. For local residents, it is the gift of health–or of life itself.

The medical services OLS provides include immunizations, blood pressure checks, diabetes screenings, hearing and vision exams, physicals for students, medical evaluations and dental services.

Each year approximately 200 military staff members, more than 200 state and county employees and countless volunteers give their time and talents to make OLS a reality. Annually, OLS provides some 60,000 medical services to more than 12,000 Texas residents.

For the Texas Medical Brigade, OLS is its primary Annual Training event where these highly trained, licensed and certified health care professionals dedicate more than a week of their time. During the intensive training exercise, they set up Medical Points of Distribution and prepare for state and local emergencies, while providing an enormous humanitarian service to the people of Texas. 

The TMB/MCC is one of the four components of the Texas State Guard. It was established in March 2003 as the Texas State Guard Medical Reserve Corps, a component of the Texas Military Department under the Adjutant General of Texas and at the direction of the Governor of Texas. It was reorganized as the TMB/MCC in May 2007 and has an authorized end strength of 350 medical and support personnel statewide. The TMB/MCC remains a Medical Reserve Corps unit designated by the U.S. Surgeon General.

The TMB/MCC serves as a regional medical response team to assist in Texas public health emergencies, including biological terrorism, epidemics and disasters. The mission is to provide licensed medical personnel and technical support expertise in response to large-scale disasters, supplementing public health authorities of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The TMB/MCC also provides medical care to military personnel of the Texas Military Department and first aid support to select community events.

Many of these medical military staff return year after year to provide services to communities that always welcome assistance with basic healthcare services. Since there are multiple locations in the Rio Grande Valley where MPODs are located, such as Brownsville, Mission, Laredo and other Rio Grande Valley locations, military healthcare providers may be assigned to new locations each year. Despite this movement, OLS has forged relationships between many physicians and clientele, relationships deep enough for clients to track down physicians they have seen before in order to see them at their new locations. 

CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.
CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year-old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Marco Coppola, DO, the Chief Medical Officer for OLS 2019 relayed a story where he saw the same client for three years in a row. The man, who was initially diagnosed as obese and suffering from high blood pressure, sought out Dr. Coppola each year to update his medications and receive an update on his progress. In the third year, the man had lost so much weight he was no longer obese, and his blood pressure had returned to normal. This relationship between the client and his OLS healthcare provider has turned the man's life around.

Col. Jonathan MacClements, MD, Surgeon General of the Texas State Guard, had one of the most unusual cases. Last year at OLS, a man presented a disfiguring skin disorder. Dr. MacClements was able to diagnose the skin disease as leprosy and worked to ensure follow-up care of the man during the year. This resulted in the man returning to see him again this year and evaluate his progress in alleviating the debilitating disease. 

Col. Robert McBroom, MD, an infectious disease specialist out of Wichita Falls, Texas, recalls a young student client who initially came in for a sports physical, which is a common need for students participating in sports in their local schools. Her experience at OLS led her to return for the last three years not only for continued care under Dr. McBroom, but also as a volunteer herself, providing translation services to clients and forging new relationships between clients and their OLS healthcare experience. 

Texas State Guard providers create much more than a single healthcare experience; they create relationships where clients return year after year to follow up on their healthcare needs. These relationships exemplify a trust between the Texas State Guard medical providers not only with the local community, but also with individual clients. 

“This speaks volumes for the importance of OLS and why the efforts of the Texas Medical Brigade are instrumental for the health and well-being of the citizens of Texas,” Brig. Gen. Coppola said.

Dr. Voss and a young patient

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch, on page 14.