The beige-metal community center on Main Street here next door to the fire station, the scene of 4-H Club meetings and family reunions, may never be the same. Jade Helm 15 is coming.
One resident said a friend of his, a Vietnam veteran, started burying some of his firearms to hide them. A farmer was rumored to have taken a different approach, by buying 20,000 rounds of ammunition. The superintendent of the school district thought he saw low-flying military cargo planes overhead. Members of the Christoval Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the community center, signed an agreement with military officials stating — oddly to some, suspiciously to others — that the Army will pay for any damage to the building after it uses it.
Sindy Miller, who runs a hair salon on Main Street, said fears of a military takeover have been the talk of this West Texas town, southeast of Midland.
“They’re worried that they’re going to come in and take their firearms away,” Ms. Miller said. “Martial law, basically. I try not to listen to all these conspiracy-theory-type people. All they’re worried about is their beer and their guns.”
Jade Helm 15, an eight-week military exercise that has generated paranoia for months fueled by conservative bloggers and Internet postings, begins Wednesday in Texas and six other states: Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Utah.
The Army’s Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other Special Operations troops will be conducting drills on private property, military bases and some public facilities. According to military documents, more than 1,200 service members will participate in the operation in Texas, in more than a dozen mostly small towns and rural counties.
Army officials say there is no cause for alarm.
“The public can expect little disruption in their day-to-day activities since much of the exercise will be conducted in remote areas,” the organizer of the exercise, the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., said in a statement Monday.
But in a larger sense, Jade Helm 15 has already caused disruptions, particularly in Texas.
On the orders of Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas State Guard will monitor Jade Helm 15 from Camp Mabry in Austin, the state capital. So will at least one national group of unofficial monitors and protesters that calls itself Counter Jade Helm. It plans to have teams of volunteers follow Army vehicles and post their locations to its website. Army planners and local elected officials have been busy answering questions from apprehensive residents and holding briefings for the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, the San Angelo Tea Party and county commissioners.
Off-base training exercises involving role-playing are not new — candidates for the Army’s Special Forces take part in a four-week drill known as Robin Sage in rural North Carolina — but the size and scope of Jade Helm 15 make it unusual.
The military exercise will train Special Operations troops in what Army planners call “unconventional warfare.” The exercise is being conducted in rural Texas because the military needed “large areas of undeveloped land with low population densities with access to towns,” and wanted soldiers to adapt to unfamiliar terrain as well as social and economic conditions, according to Army documents.
SOURCE: MANNY FERNANDEZ
The New York Times