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Depending on your perspective, an operation starting on Wednesday could be one of the largest military training exercises ever — or one of the first steps in a planned government takeover that leads to martial law across a broad swath of the United States.
Called Jade Helm 15, the venture is a Special Operations exercise that has attracted tremendous controversy. And as it prepares to get underway, here’s a background guide on what you need to know:
Where will this operation take place?
In parts of seven states across the Southwest — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. But most of the operation is slated to take place in Texas, which is where much of the opposition has been based.
Are any other states concerned? Or is this just a Texas thing?
Texas has generated the most vociferous opposition. But other states, including Utah, have expressed some concerns as well.
Still, that seems like a lot of states. Does the military normally do such big exercises?
No. Although the military does conduct multi-state exercises, military officials have said that the size and scope of Jade Helm sets it apart from others. The military has said 1,200 troops will be involved.
Does the military need any state approval to do this? Or can they just show up?
Starting last fall, military officials began coordinating with state and local officials and sought local approval in the areas where the operations will take place. Some parts are taking place on private property, and the military says they have obtained permission from landowners. It is also taking place in the jurisdiction of local law enforcement, so those authorities have been notified of the exercise.
How long will it last?
For two months, from July 15 to Sept. 15.
Why is it being done?
The military has said that it needs to update training exercises, saying in a statement that it “periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies.” They have been seeking terrain that might be similar to the one found in areas in the Middle East, where many of its missions are taking place.
But don’t they have military bases for this kind of thing?
The military argument is that its top forces are already familiar with those training areas. So they want to put them in unfamiliar settings for role-playing exercises.
Who is involved?
Participants include a variety of military branches, including Army Special Forces Command (Green Berets), Navy SEALS, Air Force Special Operations Command, and the 82d Airborne Division.
What are they going to be doing during the training?
The military has said that it will “further develop tactics, techniques, and procedures for emerging concepts in Special Operations warfare,” and that the operation will take place day and night. But military officials haven’t gotten into much detail, other than to say local residents will notice military vehicles on the roads — traveling to land being used for the training — or helicopters in the area. Local residents near the operation will see military officials, but only when they are coming into town to go to a restaurant or shop in local stores.
How did this gain so much attention?
Radio talk show host Alex Jones, who has built a career out of sensational claims, has been pushing the issue for months to his huge national listenership. In March, one of his staffers had obtained a document from a military veteran that included a Special Operations command map that listed Texas, Utah, and a portion of California as “hostile” for purposes of the military exercise. Jones viewed this as major news and told listeners that Texas was going to be invaded. “They’re going to practice breaking into things and stuff. This is going to be hellish,” Jones said. “Now this is just a cover for deploying the military on the streets . . . This is an invasion.”
A few weeks later, actor Chuck Norris also said he was worried about the operation, noting, “We must never check our brains or blindly trust, especially the government.”
Has it gained mainstream concern?
Yes. Governor Greg Abbott in April requested that the Texas State Guard monitor the federal military operation. He emphasized that Texans support the US military, but blamed President Obama for sowing distrust.
“The cause of the underlying concerns is that we see instances, like a shooting in Fort Hood by a terrorist, that the president labels workplace violence. We see the president come to the border in Texas and say it’s safer than it’s ever been,” Abbott told Austin-based NBC affiliate KXAN-TV. “And so I think it was a misplaced perception by people in Texas who have problems with the Obama administration and connected that trust with the Obama administration to the military.”
What have been the other responses?
Jon Stewart called them the “Lone Star lunatics.” One former Republican state senator, Todd Smith, accused Abbott of “pandering to idiots.” And Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, when asked at a press conference whether the military was planning to take over Texas, responded, “No.”
What are people worried about?
Opponents are fearful not necessarily about this operation but that there will be more. In their view, the operation is one way for people to grow more accustomed to seeing military officers on average American streets. At some point, it won’t be an exercise anymore; it will become a way of life. Texas residents who are worried about this compare it to a frog that gets used to the hot water only to realize eventually that it was boiling.
SOOO, WHAT DO YOU THINK??? After recent events, do they get to have weapons when there is supposedly no threat involved...just training
Trust, but verify.
I love it.
Seriously, the people freaking out about this have probably been sporting "support our troops" bumper stickers for years. I shouldn't have to point out the hypocrisy of such a maneuver.
Military exercises are performed with quite a lot of regularity, all over the country. It's required for training. The size of this exercise should be of little concern to anyone. Why would it matter given the size of the arsenals and the amount of equipment -- not to mention the intelligence & skill of those in the various branches of service at all levels -- already at the disposal of the various military branches?
Of all the things we could or should be concerned about, Jade Helm is not one of them.
I agree. Just wondering with recent events if the folks training will have weapons. There is a concern here and it is not will our military try to take over Texas. Of all places, trust me, I believe this would not be where they would want to start LOL.
However, my concern is that this highly publicized training would be a huge scale target
Jan, I could see that reason for concern. However, given the actual size of the areas involved, it's pretty unlikely anyone could target the military in these exercises -- especially since the targets there would likely be moving, over potentially very large areas.
The big terrorist attacks tend to target people in stationary places (Twin Towers, Pentagon, Boston Marathon, military bases, shopping malls, schools, churches, etc.) or people in captive spaces (airplanes, buses).
I'm no expert mind you, but my guess is that those involved in the maneuvers won't have to face any such problems. And with all the publicity and the attacks on those serving, they'll likely have increased security.
There is the very Orwellian possibility that due to all the press Jade Helm 15 has gotten (by the way, any know anything about the first 14 Jade Helms?), citizens could end up attacking members of the military while under the mistaken impression that they're being taken over -- by the Obama administration or the CIA or whoever -- & have decided to fight back. This contingency is being planned for, & my guess is that the order will be to ensure no lives are lost, including the citizens, even if they're shooting at or ambushing the US soldiers. Because that would just validate the worries of the conspiracy theorists & would give some cause to fight when they would not have fought before.
Not that we haven't screwed things up like this before (Somalia / Black Hawk Down, e.g.), but I can definitely hope such wouldn't be the case these days.
Judging by the military units who are supposed to be involved I think terrorists would keep well away !!!