After months of turmoil and controversy, Governor Greg Abbott quietly acknowledged the colossal failures of Major General Tracy Norris by removing her as The Adjutant General (TAG) of the Texas Military Forces, replacing her with Major General Thomas Suelzer on Monday. This transition brings an end to an unprecedented series of scandals at the Texas Military Department (TMD) which brought significant criticism to the competency of the leadership of our Texas Guard, as well as that of its Commander-in-Chief who, up until Monday, stood in resolute silence for well over a year.
It is beyond dispute that the last year has been challenging for Texas Guardsmen under the command of MG Norris. In the spring of 2021, Norris subjected the Texas Guard to federal “Extremism Training” which framed conservatives as the significant threat to our Republic. This controversial training was administered to the Texas State Guard, a branch of the Texas Military Forces that reports directly to the Governor of Texas and which is not subject to federal or DoD directives. At the time, a TMD spokesman stated that “it is not standard practice in our agency to notify higher levels of leadership when training the force on standard regulations, policies and basic principles of conduct.” Even though the media backlash profoundly embarrassed the Governor, this statement suggests that Norris did not feel obliged to involve her Commander-in-Chief as to whether she should indoctrinate the Texas State Guard.
Also in May, Norris ordered the Guard to randomly comb neighborhoods to vaccinate Texans without the proper personnel present to deal with any complications. Throughout the year, TMD leadership pushed the vaccine upon troops, and, in December, Norris instructed leadership that unvaccinated troops would no longer receive drill pay unless they were vaccinated and that they would be discharged by June 2022. In the face of criticism during a contentious primary, Abbott ultimately sued the federal government in January, redirecting the blame from Norris to Washington.
Without question, the greatest failure of Norris during her tenure was her failed leadership on what should have been the most critical mission ever given to the Texas Guard: the protection of Texas, itself, from an invasion of its southern border. In March, Governor Abbott quietly ramped up the presence of the Guard on the Operation Lonestar mission. But it became clear by the end of summer, as the number of troops went from hundreds to thousands, that the Texas Military Department was plagued with logistical and payroll issues far beyond what was being reported. By the end of the year, the press became aware that troops were being routinely fired upon from across the river, that the troops had no effective Rules of Engagement, inadequate equipment, cold-weather gear, or even sufficient armor. At the same time, we learned that many troops were living in atrocious conditions, were not being paid and that the mission was plagued by a rash of suicides.
In the face of poor morale, Norris’s response was to gaslight the public about the state of the mission. According to our sources, earlier in the summer, her trusted civilian lieutenant, former General James “Red” Brown, had quietly instructed troops that so long as documents were marked with “CUI” (Controlled Unclassified Information) the TMD would not have to answer Public Information Requests. Even though this guidance was clearly illegal, as CUI is not an actual designation per Texas Statute, this guidance was used to completely avoid any semblance of transparency regarding Extremism Training, forced vaccination, and Operation Lonestar. In addition to Norris, Brown no longer serves in the TMD as of March 16.
In the midst of this, the question that Texans should be asking is: why did Governor Abbott wait until now to relive Norris? After all, it was clear to everyone that Norris’s command was a complete failure not just yesterday, but last week, last month…even six months ago. Certainly the families of the half-dozen troops that committed suicide on Operation Lonestar were acutely aware that Norris was a failed commander. Most certainly the now-retired former Senior Enlisted Advisor to Norris, Command Sergeant Major Jason Featherston, has been ringing the alarm regarding Norris’s malfeasance for months. And yet, throughout all of this…throughout the failure of the crucial mission to protect Texas from the invasion of millions of illegals…Abbott was silent.
The answer to this riddle is to recognize is that two weeks ago, Abbott was in the midst of ignoring that a small army of conservatives were running against him in the Republican primary. If Abbott had acted to oust Norris last spring, as he should have, he could have saved the TMD a great deal of embarrassment, not to mention possibly rescuing the now-failed Operation Lonestar. However, since Abbott decided to procrastinate for months he ensured that he would be rightfully lambasted by his opponents, particularly Allen West.
Abbott well understood that Republicans would circle the wagons around him after the primary, and he would be insulated from criticism due to the adherence to Reagan’s “11th Commandment,” ensuring that there would be no real accountability from the right after March 1st. Thus, by putting his political future before his duty to his troops, Governor Abbott proved to all who were paying attention that he never deserved to be Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Military Forces.