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Deployed Inside the United States: The Military Waits for the Migrant Caravan

Deployed Inside the United States: The Military Waits for the Migrant Caravan

BASE CAMP DONNA, Tex. — Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Micek, a platoon sergeant with the 89th Military Police Brigade, tore open the brown packaging of his M.R.E. on Thursday.

It was a hen and noodle dish, considered one of the extra sought-after rations as a result of it got here with Skittles. But from the cot exterior his platoon’s tent at the Army’s newest ahead working base, Sergeant Micek might virtually see the brilliant orange and white roof of Whataburger, a fast-food utopia eight miles away however off limits beneath present Army guidelines. The desert tan flatbed vans at the base are for hauling concertina wire, not meals runs.

Such is life on the newest entrance the place American troopers are deployed. The midterm elections are over, together with President Trump’s rafter-shaking rallies warning that an approaching migrant caravan of Central Americans quantities to a overseas “invasion” that warrants deploying as much as 15,000 active-duty army troops to the border states of Texas, Arizona and California.

But the 5,600 American troops who rushed to the brown, dry scrub alongside the southwest border are nonetheless going via the motions of an elaborate mission that seemed to be set into motion by a commander in chief decided to get his supporters to the polls, and a Pentagon management unable to persuade him of its perils.

Instead of soccer with their households on this Veterans Day weekend, troopers with the 19th Engineer Battalion, recent from Fort Knox, Ky., have been painstakingly webbing concertina wire on the banks of the Rio Grande, simply beneath the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.

Nearby, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State have been ensuring a sick name tent was correctly arrange subsequent to their help station. And a couple of miles away, Staff Sgt. Juan Mendoza was directing site visitors as his engineer assist firm from Fort Bragg, N.C., unloaded army automobiles.

Come Thanksgiving, they almost certainly will nonetheless be right here.

Two thousand miles away, at the Pentagon, officers privately derided the deployment as an costly waste of time and sources, and a morale killer besides.

Leading as much as the midterm vote on Tuesday, the army introduced that the border mission can be referred to as Operation Faithful Patriot. But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Election Day informed officers to drop the title, and the Pentagon despatched out a terse information launch a day later saying the operation was now merely to be generally known as border assist. The time period “devoted patriot,” officers mentioned, had political overtones.

A last value estimate of the deployment has not been made obtainable. But Defense Department finances officers fret that if the variety of troops despatched to the border does attain 15,000, the price ticket might hit $200 million, with no particular finances allocation from which to attract.

The final time active-duty troops have been despatched to the border was in the 1980s, to assist with counternarcotics missions. Since then, Mr. Trump’s predecessors have relied on the National Guard, which arrived with significantly much less fanfare than the convoys of automobiles and tent cities which have sprung up in latest days.

The Defense Department’s fiscal 2019 finances had already carved out funds for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, persevering with the infinite battle in Afghanistan and making ready for a possible battle with a overseas nation, akin to China, Russia, North Korea or Iran.

There has been no cash put aside to fight the males, ladies and kids who’re sure for the American border, lots of them fleeing violence or corruption, practically all searching for higher lives. The troops are tasked with the similar forms of logistical, assist and even clerical jobs that National Guard troopers despatched to the border earlier this 12 months are already doing.

The army’s morale problem is sort of as worrisome. The deployment orders final till Dec. 15, that means the troops will probably be on the border over Thanksgiving. They may have little to do past offering logistical assist, until Mr. Trump declares martial regulation. The troops is not going to be implementing United States immigration regulation — that might run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, until a particular exception is made.

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