Texas residents are watching Operation Jade Helm 15 with a suspicious eye. Some have even created a group with the specific purpose of reporting on the secret military operations as they began Wednesday at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas.
The state has been battling conspiracy theories about the maneuvers ever since the federal government announced in March that it would be conducting military exercises across seven south and western states over the summer. The maneuvers are set to end Sept. 15. The other states that will see military personnel are Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah and New Mexico.
The sheer number of military personnel in the area is one reason for concern. Operation Jade Helm 15 involves the 82nd Airborne Division, Marine expeditionary forces, and Special Forces from all four military branches. A total of 1,200 service members are participating in the exercises. Another aspect that leads citizens to speculation is that the military is not allowing anyone in the media to watch or report on the exercises from the inside of the operation. Military officials said they considered media requests, but decided against allowing journalists to be imbedded in the operation because of the expanse and scope of the exercise.
Some asked military officials during town hall meetings if there were plans to detain or imprison American citizens during the operation. While the answer was no, conspiracy theories remain that the true purpose of the mobilization was to set the groundwork for martial law. Theories have been so pervasive in Texas that rumors included speculation that closed Walmart stores would be turned into detention centers and Blue Bell trucks would be hauling dead bodies.
Gov. Gregg Abbott responded to concerns by ordering members of the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 . The governor said in a letter to Major Gen. Gerald Betty of the Guard that “it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.” It is not reported how many state guard troops are dedicated to monitoring the operation. The Texas State Guard does have four or five members acting as liaisons with citizens. The governor’s office said most communication between Guard members and residents involve logistics and not fears. The liaisons are helping to coordinate with the Army at Camp Mabry, which is the Texas Military Forces headquarters.
A group of citizens, which includes retired peace officers, former firefighters, former military personnel and others, formed a watchdog group called Counter Jade Helm. The purpose of the group, according to its those in the group, is to mobilize the public to monitor the operation. Citizens organized unofficial patrols to practice intelligence gathering and reporting skills as well as counter-insurgency and organizational skills, members state. Basically, those in CJH watch military vehicles and personnel and report on their locations and anything deemed suspicious. They are not armed are not to engage in any of the activities or initiate any contact with the military. The group is monitoring exercises in all the states where the military is operating. Those in CJH said they are not conspiracy theorists, but want to verify information given to the public by the military about the training exercise and inform residents in Texas, and elsewhere, watching Operation Jade Helm of their findings.
Citizens in the other states where Operation Jade Helm is conducting exercises has not had the reaction of those in Texas. However, news and theories about the operation have circulated around the globe and are making headlines in places like New Zealand.
So far, the presence by the State Guard and the watchdog group seems to be easing fears about the military maneuvers. Military officials are reporting that suspicions are down. Americans across the country feel the way Texans do, but do not openly express it. A Rasmussen Reports national poll, conducted in May, revealed that 45 percent of voters have fears that military training operations will be used by the federal government to force control over states. Those living in the states where Operation Jade Helm is being conducted were especially troubled with 82 percent stating the move was a federal attempt to have more power at the state level. Concerns such as those are the root of why Texas residents are watching Operation Jade Helm.
By Melody Dareing
USA Today: Controversial Jade Helm military exercise opens in Texas
Christian Science Monitor: Jade Helm 15 exercises kick of in Texas amid strong suspicion
Fox: Volunteer watchdog group dispatched to western states to monitor ‘Jade Helm’
Photo Courtesy of DvidShub’s Flicker Page – Creative Commons License