A domestic military training exercise has some people concerned, the Daily Mail reports.
Operation Jade Helm is reportedly scheduled to begin in July and last for eight weeks. It will deploy 1,200 military special ops personnel around towns in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Colorado and Utah.
Some soldiers will be dropped from planes and equipped with weapons loaded with blanks. They will also attempt to operate undetected among civilians, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Residents will be asked to report any suspicious activity to gauge the effectiveness of the soldiers. The operation has gotten the go ahead from mayors and county commissions.
Some military officials have dubbed the exercise as “Realistic Military Training.” But some people are concerned the drills are too realistic, especially with residents in the entire states of Texas and Utah dubbed as “hostile” for the purposes of the exercise.
Freedom Outpost went as far as writing the headline: “Operation jade Helm — military trains for martial law in American South-West.”
Alex Jones of Info Wars warned that the operation is “an effort to test the effectiveness of infiltration techniques” on the American public.
“They’re having Delta Force, Navy SEALS with the Army trained to basically take over,” Jones said. “Texas is listed as a hostile sector, and of course, we are… We’re here defending the republic.”
But Jim Stewart of the Texas Sheriff’s Office told the Houston Chronicle that such drills are common and far from anything new.
“Special ops for years have trained off-post for years, where they go out and have folks that are role players out on the economy,” Stewart said. “They’ll have a scenario they’ll be following and they’ll interact with these role players as if they’re in another country.”
Despite Stewart’s claims, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command admitted that Operation Jade Helm is different.
“The size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart,” it stated in a March 24 release. “To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.”
Other military officials have dismissed the idea that the exercise is training for martial law.
“That notion was proposed by a few individuals who are unfamiliar with how and why USASOC conducts training exercises,” USASOC spokesman Army Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria told Stars and Stripes. “This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for Army Special Operations Forces because they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.”