Texas Guard’s high common changed amid border mission troubles

This text is co-published and co-reported with the The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit newsroom that informs Texans about state coverage and politics. Join The Temporary, its each day e-newsletter.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott introduced Monday he has changed Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris as chief of the Texas Army Division after months of criticism that her dealing with of his extremely touted border mission had led to deplorable residing circumstances for troops.

In a information launch, Abbott stated Norris’ time period expired in February and Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Suelzer, who previously oversaw the Texas Air Guard, was the army division’s new chief as of Monday.

Norris started her three-year tenure on the helm of the division in 2019 however got here below heavy criticism in latest months after a large ramp-up of Operation Lone Star final fall led to pay points, poor residing circumstances and an absence of applicable gear for troops on the mission.

An investigation co-published by The Texas Tribune and Army Instances discovered that most of the points plaguing the mission weren’t solely byproducts of the mission’s hasty growth, but additionally just like issues confronted throughout the division’s final main state deployment, throughout Hurricane Harvey.

Norris and the division have been additionally criticized after a number of service members tied to the operation died by suicide.

One of many Republican opponents Abbott beat on this month’s gubernatorial major, Allen West, criticized Norris’ dealing with of the mission and known as for her resignation in January. In February, a leaked morale survey revealed main dissatisfaction amongst troops, with greater than half of the service members surveyed expressing skepticism or frustration with the mission.

Abbott didn’t acknowledge criticism of Norris in his assertion, as an alternative thanking her for her work with the division. Her predecessor as adjutant common of the division served for practically seven years.

“Common Norris faithfully served the Texas Army Division with dignity, as Adjutant Common starting in January 2019, as Assistant Adjutant Common in 2016, and over her a long time of service,” Abbott stated in a press release. “I thank Common Norris for her distinctive service to the State of Texas and am honored to nominate her successor, Main Common Thomas Suelzer, because the Adjutant Common of Texas. Common Suelzer brings a wealth of army expertise to this new position, and I’m assured that he’ll uphold the integrity of the Texas Army Division and exemplify servant management all through each facet of this place.”

Others have been fast to level out Norris’ latest struggles.

“I’ll imagine there may be optimistic change once I see it,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who represents El Paso and has been essential of Operation Lone Star. “Maj. Gen. Suelzer, please let me be the primary to say: Ship our Guard members dwelling.”

Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat difficult Abbott within the November election, put the blame for the mission’s latest controversies squarely on the incumbent governor’s toes.

“You may swap Generals, however everyone knows the place the buck stops. Greg Abbott took 10,000 Guard members from their households, jobs, and communities,” O’Rourke stated in a press release. “He has handled them with unbelievable disrespect as he has delayed their pay, minimize their tuition advantages in half, and used them as political pawns in his re-election marketing campaign. It’s time to carry them again dwelling.”

One other vocal critic of Norris’ management has been retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Featherston, who was the Texas Army Nationwide Guard’s high enlisted soldier from Might 2020 till he retired shortly earlier than the border mission’s troop surge.

“TMD has hit all-time low below the management of MG Tracy Norris,” he stated in a textual content message. “[The organization] might want to begin a rebuilding mode and might want to focus [on] soldier priorities and retention … let’s hope it’s not too late or take years to undo the harm [she] has induced.”

Spc. Hunter Schuler, a soldier on the border mission who represents fellow troops as a coordinator for the Texas State Staff Union’s Army Council, welcomed the change in management as properly.

“When confronted with logistical failures, suicides, and abhorrent circumstances, MG Norris and her govt workers have been gradual to make corrections, deflected from their errors, repeatedly misled service members, and lied to the general public,” Schuler stated in a textual content message. “We’re optimistic about MG Suelzer and hope that he’ll make different overdue management modifications and advocate for his service members’ finest pursuits – together with releasing them from this involuntary political stunt on the border.”

A unionization effort was largely spurred by what service members noticed as failures by management throughout Operation Lone Star.

Earlier than Monday’s appointment, Suelzer served because the deputy adjutant general-air for the Texas Nationwide Guard at Camp Mabry. In that position, he was the primary advisor to Norris on Air Nationwide Guard points and was accountable for insurance policies, plans and packages that affected three wings and greater than 3,200 Air Nationwide Guard service members.

Suelzer joined the Texas Nationwide Guard in 2007 and served because the deputy director for home operations. He has served on two border missions and led the army’s COVID-19 response in Texas.

Suelzer graduated from the US Air Pressure Academy in 1990 with a bachelor’s diploma in political science. He served within the lively responsibility Air Pressure and the Air Pressure Reserve earlier than transferring to Texas.

Davis Winkie is a workers reporter masking the Army. He initially joined Army Instances as a reporting intern in 2020. Earlier than journalism, Davis labored as a army historian. He’s additionally a human assets officer within the Army Nationwide Guard.