By John Friend —
Shuttered Walmarts. Martial law. Gun confiscation. Rounding up dissidents. FEMA camps. Total tyranny. These are some of the concerns and allegations being made about Operation Jade Helm 15, one of the largest military drills conducted within the United States in history. The drill, organized by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, which also involves other military entities and special operations troops, is scheduled to begin on July 15. The exercise will conclude on September 15.
According to the latest reports, Jade Helm will involve roughly 200 Special Operations troops combined with an additional 300 support personnel for the duration of the exercise. For a period of five days in August, 700 members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division will be involved as well, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
The Special Operations troops will conduct their exercises on both private and public land in a number of southern states, with the majority of the training scheduled to occur in Texas. Special Operations commanders will lead the military exercise, which is said to have been designed to prepare troops for overseas engagements, from Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County, Florida, the home of the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group.
Since Jade Helm was announced in March, theories have emerged and concerns have been raised about the ultimate purpose of the exercise, with many speculating that the operation is conditioning the public to accept martial law while training American military personnel to view the American people as potential enemies. Others have alleged Jade Helm would be used to arrest American dissidents and confiscate the firearms of American patriots. A map of the southwest United States associated with Jade Helm that was published on the Internet in March depicts several “hostile territories,” including Southern California and the entire states of Utah and Texas.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Mark Lastoria, the primary spokesperson for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the map was merely tentative and no longer accurately represents the Jade Helm exercise, which has been scaled back since it was originally announced in March.
Lastoria has insisted on many occasions that Jade Helm is simply a standard military training exercise. It is designed to “assist our Special Operations Soldiers in refining the skills needed against an ever changing foreign threat,” said Lastoria.
Jade Helm and the map associated with it have drawn widespread suspicion from the public, which views the federal government—but not necessarily the military—as increasingly illegitimate and tyrannical. In April, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced the Texas State Guard would monitor the exercise in order to “address concerns of Texas citizens,” according to a letter written to Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty, commander of the Texas State Guard.
“During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott wrote. “I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15.”
Lastoria recently announced that media would not be allowed to observe any of the operations associated with Jade Helm. Embedded reporters are strictly forbidden. However, Lastoria indicated that the organizers of Jade Helm are considering allowing a small number of selected journalists to view limited portions of the exercise at some point this summer.
“All requests from the media for interviews and coverage of U.S. Army Special Operations Command personnel, organizations and events are assessed for feasibility and granted when and where possible,” Lastoria told The Washington Post. “We are dedicated to communicating with the public, while balancing that against the application of operations security and other factors.”
As a result of the concerns that have arisen since Jade Helm was announced, a group of American patriots have independently organized Counter Jade Helm, “a training exercise for the people,” according to its official website. “In response to the military’s multi-state training, called Jade Helm 15, citizens will participate in an unofficial fashion to practice counter-insurgency, organizational and intelligence gathering and reporting skills.”
The organizers of Counter Jade Helm aim to rally volunteers to monitor and surveil the various exercises associated with Jade Helm, and report back to a centralized webpage with updates and information regarding the controversial military drill.
“We’re going to be watching what they do in the public,” said Pete Lanteri, a 44-year-old former Marine living in Arizona. “Obviously, on a military base they can do whatever they want. But if they’re going to train on public land we have a right as American citizens to watch what they’re doing.”
According to Lanteri, about 200 people have signed up to volunteer with Counter Jade Helm, many of whom have military and law enforcement experience. Lanteri will be the primary coordinator of the surveillance operation, and volunteers across the Southwest will submit their reports directly to him for analysis and publication online.
Lanteri and his network of volunteers will certainly have their work cut out for them. According to Roy Boyd of the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office, the Special Operations troops are planning to “set up cells of people and test how well they’re able to move around without getting too noticed in the community. They’re testing their abilities to basically blend in with the local environment and not stand out and blow their cover.”
If Operation Jade Helm 15 has proven anything, it’s that an increasing number of American citizens, along with local and state entities, view the federal government as fundamentally illegitimate and untrustworthy.
And can you blame them?
John Friend is a California-based writer who maintains a blog.