A National Guardsman on the southern border mission left a loaded M4 rifle in an unlocked vehicle Thursday, which was quickly found by a civilian.
"I think it's irresponsible, reckless and a danger to public safety if that's the way the National Guard is doing things," Marianna Treviño Wright, who found the weapon, told Military.com. "If they cannot secure their weapons, how are they supposed to secure the border?"
Treviño Wright is the executive director of the National Butterfly Center, a 100-acre nature preserve on the U.S.-Mexico border. She said there were five vehicles in front of the preserve, some belonging to the National Guard and others being Border Patrol vehicles.
One vehicle had soldiers in it, which drove away when she approached. Treviño Wright saw a pickup truck used by Guardsmen still running and noticed a loaded M4 with a close combat optic, or CCO, attached in the driver's seat. It also had at least one assault pack and multiple floatation devices in the bed.
Fearing the weapon could be taken by someone with bad intentions, she confiscated it and immediately called Border Patrol authorities. Roughly 45 minutes later, Border Patrol personnel and National Guardsmen came back to retrieve the rifle.
The Texas National Guard did not respond to Military.com's request for comment or answer questions on whether the soldier faces any punitive action. Losing track of a weapon is widely seen as one of the greatest sins a service member can commit, a stance that's drilled into troops beginning in basic training. It is common for a soldier's company level chain of command to be investigated and potentially punished for a lack of proper oversight after such weapons are lost.
"Let's say the Guard or Border Patrol were trying to apprehend someone, who got past them and got to that vehicle with the weapon," Treviño Wright said. "Anyone could have grabbed it, multiple people went by on bicycles and were jogging."
Treviño Wright said she has constantly battled with the National Guard over trespassing on her property and causing incidents. In January, soldiers crashed a truck into one of the nature preserve's gates.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon