Secretary of Defense James Mattis Wednesday visited the troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border and gave them some inspiring words ahead of the arrival of a migrant caravan slowly making its way through Mexico toward the U.S.
The Department of Defense’s latest estimate suggests there will be more than 7,000 troops at various positions in Arizona, California and Texas, according to CNBC. Their responsibility will involve erecting barriers and helping the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with other logistical tasks.
Mattis spoke directly to the troops on his trip.
“In the Army, we don’t care if you’re male or female, we don’t care where you go to church or if you go to church,” he said. “We just care when there’s trouble out there, will you keep the faith, will you ride for the brand, and when trouble looms, do you go toward the trouble to help your buddies.”
LIVE: Defense Sec. James Mattis visits troops at U.S.-Mexico border. https://t.co/UUidbYjZnr
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 14, 2018
“Loyalty only matters when there’s a hundred reasons not to be loyal,” Mattis told the troops. “When it’s raining and you’re cold. It’s when you’re in a position where people are showing a lack of respect for each other elsewhere and you and your team are holding strong.”
“Nothing can shake you,” Mattis added.
The defense secretary announced after visiting with military personnel that he does not expect law enforcement to come in direct contact with any of the migrants, a fear that arose after President Donald Trump announced the military will treat rocks thrown by migrants at troops as firearms.
“Department of Defense missions do not involve military personnel at this time directly participating in any law enforcement,” Mattis said. “Law enforcement is left in the hands of customs and border police [which] will have the statutory authority to carry that out.”
“At the present, I do not anticipate military personnel coming into direct contact with migrants,” he added.
“It’s obviously a moral and ethical mission to support our border patrolmen,” Sec. James Mattis says as he travels to visit U.S. troops deployed to the southern border in anticipation of the arrival of a migrant caravan winding north toward the U.S. https://t.co/20NWyqSGql pic.twitter.com/aIYfEK1MXz
— ABC News (@ABC) November 14, 2018
“This country may not be perfect, but you’re going to have to go a long way to find a country more willing to look itself in the eye and say we’ve got to improve here,” Mattis said to the troops.
The Pentagon originally assigned the mission of the ongoing deployment of troops to the southwest border as “Operation Faithful Patriot,” but dropped the name days later. A few reports claimed the name drop was to reflect that the troops are not part of an actual operation, a term typically associated with combat situations.
Mattis addressed the name change Wednesday, saying he didn’t want to “put this mission in some arcane military terms.” (RELATED: US Troops, Border Patrol Prepare For Migrant Caravan By Laying Down Barbed Wire)
“I want to talk to the American people, because this is a highly politically visible issue,” Mattis told reporters. “I want you [the media] to tell them what we’re doing. I want you to tell them we are operating in support of customs or of border police. Do not say we’re supporting a federal agency.”
Mattis asked reporters to stop using military terms when writing on the border deployment.
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