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Organizations, Gov. Noem respond to state National Guard deployment to Texas border

Noem headshot

Gov. Kristi Noem appears on a live broadcast of FOX & Friends at Peggy's Place on Thursday in Keystone.

Gov. Kristi Noem said she met Willis Johnson “just a while ago” while looking at old-fashioned cars.

She said Johnson has never been a political contributor of hers, and was introduced to him a short time ago through acquaintances and friends.

Noem announced this week she was deploying up to 50 South Dakota National Guard troops to Texas at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s request to secure the Texas-Mexico border. Johnson fit the bill with a $1 million donation to the state, the Associated Press reported.

Johnson lives in Tennessee and built Copart Inc., which is a publicly traded global business dealing with cars. He previously donated to President Donald Trump’s campaign and has given at least $2.3 million to federal campaigns over the last decade. 

“This is an incredibly important issue for our country,” Noem said. “In my opinion, the National Guard is best suited for going down there and securing our border. This is what our National Guard does, and people need to remember they’re trained and equipped for missions to go into situations exactly like what we’re seeing.”

She said South Dakota has the best National Guard unit and has for the past three years. She said she knows they’re going to complete the mission with excellence.

According to the state’s press release, the initial deployment to the border will last between 30 and 60 days.

Noem told FOX enterprise reporter Lawrence Jones during an interview on FOX & Friends that she went through the protocols and asked for volunteers in the National Guard who would go to the border. She said she had more than she could possibly want.

The Democratic Caucus sent a letter to Noem Wednesday stating “this is a misuse of our National Guard, and no troops should ever be made available for privately contracted mercenary assignments.”

The caucus calls into question the ethics of such a use and noted that it could set a “dangerous precedent for further political use of our National Guard.”

Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier released comments Tuesday asking why Noem deployed soldiers to the border when no soldiers were deployed for his request on assessment and establishment of medical facilities in anticipation of COVID-19.

“The inaction of actually protecting the people of South Dakota is what prompted the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to take the drastic measures we did to protect all residents within our boundaries, regardless of tribal enrollment status,” Frazier said in the statement.

He said that work needs to be done in South Dakota, especially with a serious drought. Noem declared a state of emergency for the drought earlier this week.

“The South Dakota National Guard would better serve us by providing water to the farmers, ranchers, businesses and citizens that need it here now,” Frazier said. 

— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at siandhara.bonnet@rapidcityjournal.com

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