Texas Gov. Greg Abbott greets Texas National Guard troops at Forward Operating Base Eagle Pass on May 31, 2024.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott greets Texas National Guard troops at Forward Operating Base Eagle Pass on May 31, 2024. (Office of the Texas Governor)

AUSTIN, Texas — Roughly 300 Texas National Guard troops on Friday moved into an 80-acre base being constructed along the U.S. border with Mexico as part of a mission to stop migrants from crossing into the United States, the state’s governor said.

Forwarding Operating Base Eagle Pass on the Rio Grande in southwest Texas is still being built, but it will eventually house up to 1,800 troops in single-occupancy rooms who are all working on the state-sponsored mission known as Operation Lone Star.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, commander of the Texas National Guard, and Gov. Greg Abbott hosted a media tour of the base Friday and answered questions in front of a backdrop of Guard soldiers standing at ease.

The three-year-old, multibillion-dollar mission puts Guard members at the border alongside state police to deter illegal activity such as human smuggling and drug trafficking. Abbott and the Texas National Guard have been tight-lipped about the total number of troops assigned to the mission.

Once the new base at Eagle Pass is fully operational in about five months, the Guard will close three smaller base camps scattered along the Texas border, Suelzer said. The Guard will also move its Operation Lone Star headquarters to the new base from McAllen, which is about 290 miles southeast. It will also move most of its logistical supplies there.

This will save the state about $11.5 million each month in the cost of housing troops, Suelzer said. That estimate does not include the cost of gas to drive back and forth to more distant bases or hotels.

“It’s operationally more effective and efficient to build this base here. It’s right in the middle of the 1,254 miles of border that we’re taking operational control of,” Suelzer said.

The new base is about six miles from Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, a city-owned park on the Rio Grande seized earlier this year by the Texas Guard. State troops have blocked federal immigration agents from entering the 47-acre park, which is enclosed with wire barriers.

Abbott said only about two people a day make their way in and are arrested by state police.

“The desire to maintain control of Shelby Park is not long term,” he said. It will reopen when “there is operational control of the border.”

The buildings at the new base are modular, and some facilities are trailers and tents, according to a presentation from the contractor Team Housing Solutions that was posted to the state’s budget website.

The New Braunfels-based company received the $131 million contract in February to construct the base, which appears to have facilities similar to those at Camp Walker in Laredo and Camp Alpha in Del Rio — but on a larger scale.

The empty terrain in Eagle Pass required utilities to be built and established before anything else could be done, Suelzer said. When finished, there will be 95 buildings.

The base in Eagle Pass will remain operational so long as it is needed, Abbott said.

“No one knows the future of what’s going to happen,” he said. “The reality is this base is going to be needed as long as people are crossing the border illegally into the state of Texas.”

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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