The training, led by Major General Robert Bodisch Sr., included a section reminding service members of their duty under their oath and also explaining prohibited behaviors. It was almost verbatim to sections of the Department of Defense training.
However, the Texas State Guard falls under the Texas Military Department and is a state agency under the leadership of Governor Greg Abbott and the adjutant general, Major General Tracy Norris, who is appointed by the governor.
Abbott criticized the federal government for “vetting” Texas National Guard troops whom he deployed to the U.S. Capitol after the January 6 riot.
“This is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard,” Abbott said in a tweet on January 18.
However, now the state forces under his purview are conducting training that encourages members to report others for extremist behaviors. Abbott’s office did not reply to The Texan’s inquiries about his awareness of the training. According to the Texas Military Department, Abbott’s office referred the inquiry to them.
“When the Department of Defense mandated DOD service members to conduct extremism training, Maj. Tracy Gen. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, directed each of her subordinate Texas Military Department commanders to conduct extremism training with their service members,” the Texas Military Department spokesperson wrote to The Texan.
“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.” This statement seems to indicate that the governor was not informed before the training was held.
One example of extremism given during the training was of an airman who had social media posts that included “hate speech toward members of the LGBTQ community” and who claimed “his way of life was being threatened by the homosexual agenda.”
The trainers added that the military would be actively looking at social media posts of its members for examples of extremism.
Andy Hopper, who has been a Texas State Guardsman since 2014, is concerned about the precedent set by the training.
First, the standard of extremism seems to him to be based on beliefs, not actions.
“The Texas Military Department has a compelling interest in preventing the advent and spread of hate groups and activities within the department,” a recording of the training says.
In May, Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier was fired as a commander in the Space Force and is under investigation by the inspector general for comments he made on a podcast about his book, which claims Marxist ideologies are becoming prevalent in the United States military.
The training materials encourage what might be considered prior restraint on speech, “Whether it’s a letter to an editor or a social media post, if you have questions about what you want to say, your chain of command, supervisors, public affairs, or legal office can also help you ensure you’re not violating regulations.”
Second, he believes the subject matter for what makes one an “extremist” is too sweeping.
For example, Sergeant First Class Young of the Sixth Brigade who conducted part of the training confirmed that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is on the Department of Defense list of extremist organizations.
According to the NRA, the group has over 400,000 members in Texas.
When asked for a master list of extremist organizations during the training session, those leading the training said they didn’t know of such a list.
The Department of Defense did not reply to a request for the list of extremist organizations before the time of publication.
Furthermore, Young suggested rhetorically that guardsmen might want to remove bumper stickers about Texas secession from their cars.
However, as Hopper pointed out, Representative Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) is a Major in the Texas State Guard and co-authored House Bill 1359, the Texas Independence Referendum Act (“TEXIT” bill).
Additionally, Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas who is also in the Texas State Guard, has stated on record that Texans should have the right to vote on Independence, and the Republican Party Platform includes a plank affirming Texas’ right to secede.
“These are not fringe beliefs,” Hopper told The Texan.
The subjectivity of what makes one an extremist is Hopper’s third concern. At one point in the training, the leadership admitted to the subjectivity.
Hopper pointed out that the current Texas Military Department policy is that a transgender person can not serve.
“If that changes in a few years, will that then be considered an extremist position?” Hopper asked at the training.
“No idea, sir. We’ll have to see,” was the reply.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.