A controversial U.S. military training exercise known as “Operation Jade Helm” rolls out this week across several southwestern states — but a group of wary citizen watchdogs will be keeping an eye on them.
Starting Wednesday, U.S. Army Special Operations Command will lead a large-scale training exercise in Texas — or if you believe some non-mainstream news outlets, they’ll start preparing the Pentagon for civil war.
Jade Helm 15, as the exercise is called, will run for 8 weeks through September 15 and unite SEALS, Green Berets and other special forces to focus on enhancing team-level elements’ abilities to operate unconventional warfare involving Army special operators, as well as representatives from the other services, said USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria.
“This overall training exercise is designed to ensure that Army special operations forces are trained, equipped and organized to meet future threats,” Lastoria told Army Times. “Even a lot of the journalists in Texas have said a lot of the controversy has died down.”
Lastoria said the biggest inconvenience to residents will be noise from military vehicles passing through. Most activities will occur in remote settings, and any use of private land has been coordinated and agreed to in advance, he said.
The months leading up to Jade Helm were peppered with various conspiracy theories on fringe websites. The outrage even led to town hall meetings in Texas communities with Army representatives.
The Pentagon has said the exercise “poses no threat” to civil liberties, but locals weren’t buying it.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded by publicly assigning the Texas State Guard to keep an eye on Jade Helm. Abbott’s office later downplayed the move, saying it fit in with the guard’s advisory role in the state.
Pete Lanteri, a former Marine now living in Arizona, told Fox News that volunteer members he’s helped organize will be on the ground as part of a newly formed surveillance campaign called “Counter Jade Helm.”
“We’re not paranoid tin-hat wearing freaks,” Lanteri said. “We’re not going to be out there confronting people or holding signs.”
Rather, Lanteri and his volunteers will be in plain clothes, in plain sight and armed with only cell phones and video cameras, he says.
“I did this because A: I believe in monitoring what the government does and B: I see this as a training opportunity,” Lanteri, who has spent a decade working on the Arizona-Mexico border, said.
The training will occur in six other states: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Outside events have been tied to the conspiracy. Temporarily-closed Walmarts were seen as concentration camps being prepared in the minds of some, while Blue Bunny ice cream trucks allegedly traveling near military vehicles were theorized as mobile morgues.
No media will be allowed to embed in the operation.