April 15, 2024

Several volunteer members of the West Virginia National Guard say they are unhappy with the level of pay they are receiving at the southern border as part of Operation Lone Star.

The troops departed West Virginia late last month for the southern border following a deployment ceremony in Charleston. They are assisting the Texas Military Department with that state’s ongoing efforts to secure the southern border.

However, the West Virginia troops were under the impression that they would be receiving the same level of pay as the Texas soldiers. All 54 West Virginia soldiers volunteered to participate in the mission.

It was suggested that the pay scale for the West Virginia troops would be the same as the Texas troops, an unnamed guardsman who asked to remain anonymous, said, adding that the Texas soldiers are making about $7,000 a month.

“That is what we were being shown at the briefings,” the soldier, who contacted the Daily Telegraph, said.

Instead, he said the West Virginia troops are getting a salary closer to $2,000 — a difference of nearly $5,000.

“The majority of the troops are junior listed,” the guardsman added. “So they will be making like $2,000 for this month. And that is being optimistic.”

He added that some of the troops who took the volunteer assignment did so for the pay to help with bills and expenses back home.

“Nobody wants surprises,” he said. “I’m here because I like to do Army things. I like to volunteer and go on missions.”

A second unnamed guardsman, who also asked to remain anonymous, said the troops found out last week that the salary level isn’t what they initially thought it would be.

“It is definitely a very small number compared to what we were promised to get,” the second guardsman said. “That is a big difference.”

The soldier added he would have made more money back home at his civilian job. He said the West Virginia troops aren’t being paid until August 25.

With the exception of the pay issue, both soldiers said the assignment at the southern border is going very well with no notable problems.

Major Holli Nelson with the West Virginia National Guard Communications/Governmental Affairs Office, said each state outlines how much money a guardsman will make, which is codified by state statute.

“The West Virginia National Guard soldiers and airmen serving in support of the Texas Military Department for Operation Lone Star were provided pay and benefits information prior to departure from West Virginia on August 31, 2023,” Nelson said. “Since WVNG members are deployed in a West Virginia State Active Duty status, which is governed by West Virginia statute, they are entitled to benefits equal to their rank and time in service or $100 per day, if their pay is less than $100. While serving in support of Operation Lone Star, West Virginia service members are provided lodging and meals at no cost during the duration of their deployment. In addition, WVNG personnel were provided a pay date of August 25, 2023, for their first paycheck for this assignment. All pay transactions for State Active Duty are processed through the state’s pay system.”

Nelson said when soldiers or airmen are serving in a State Active Duty status, their pay and benefits are dependent upon what is authorized in state code or regulatory guidelines for each state. Members of other National Guard states supporting Operation Lone Star — including Texas — may receive differing pay and benefits based upon their state code in comparison to service members from West Virginia, according to Nelson.

Gov. Jim Justice and West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General William Crane applauded the troops for their participation in the 30-day volunteer deployment during last month’s departure ceremony.

The West Virginia troops are working alongside the Texas National Guard and Texas law enforcement partners to detect and deter criminal activity between points of entry at the border.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star earlier this year in response to the flood of migrants who are crossing the southern border each day. The Texas governor directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to “use available resources to enforce all applicable federal and state laws to prevent the criminal activity along the border, including criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking.”

A number of other Republican-controlled states, including neighboring Virginia, also are participating in Operation Lone Star.

“Several governors are doing this because the situation on our southern border is terrible, and I want to make sure we’re doing our part,” Justice said during last month’s deployment ceremony. “So, I’m very proud to support our friends to the south. I know our National Guard will do incredible work, and we’ll wish them Godspeed to get home safe and sound. I thank them all for their incredible bravery and for stepping up yet again to answer the call.”

(c)2023 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.)

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