Operation Lone Star series wins 2023 MRE journalism contest

James Barragán of the Texas Tribune and Davis Winkie of Military Times awarded Print prize by Military Reporters & Editors

The award goes to James Barragan of the Texas Tribune and Davis Winkie of Military Times for a series of stories that uncovered serious and repeated administrative and logistics failures in the Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s deployment of the state National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border. Operation Lone Star is the largest long-term National Guard deployment under a single governor’s authority in modern history. The guard essentially confirmed the reporters’ findings in a new strategic plan that admitted the department was overwhelmed by the scale of the border mission, leading to a cascade of failures with payroll, living conditions, purchase orders and more, including a soldier who drowned due to lack of a flotation device.

— From the judges

Award Summary

Series on Texas-Mexico border operations problems

Prize Category: First Place, Print — Domestic military or national defense coverage for large market newspapers, online or magazines

James Barragán Biography

James Barragan Texas Tribune

James Barragán is a politics reporter for The Texas Tribune with a focus on accountability reporting. Prior to joining the Tribune, James worked as a statehouse reporter for The Dallas Morning News and had previous stints at the Austin American-Statesman and the Los Angeles Times. He is a co-finalist for the 2023 Livingston Award for his reporting on the National Guard at the Texas-Mexico border. In 2021, James was a finalist for the Toner Prize for Excellence in Local Reporting for his coverage of Texas politics during the COVID-19 pandemic. James received his bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA.

Davis Winkie Biography

Davis Winkie is an Atlanta-based senior reporter covering the Army for Military Times, focusing on investigations, personnel issues and military justice. He spearheads the publication’s ongoing investigative partnerships with ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. Davis is a co-finalist for the 2023 Livingston Award for his reporting on the National Guard at the Texas-Mexico border. He joined Military Times in 2020 as an intern. Davis, a National Guard vet, studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Read the four-sample series winning submission

Series Sample 1 | Published 2/1/22 | Texas Tribune

Deplorable conditions, unclear mission: Texas National Guard troops call Abbott’s rushed border operation a disaster


Series Sample 2 | Published 4/27/22 | Texas Tribune

Texas soldier who drowned trying to help migrants wasn’t equipped with flotation device


Series Sample 3 | Published 10/6/22 | Texas Tribune

Operation Lone Star troops could owe feds tax money thanks to state’s payroll error


Series Sample 4 | Published 12/16/22 | Texas Tribune

After a Texas National Guard member died, his family got no financial payment. Lawmakers want to change that.