KCBD Investigates: Hard questions, real answers about Jade Helm

Updated: Apr. 12, 2016 at 1:03 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - Jade Helm, a military training exercise that will take place in Texas and six other states, has been the subject of rumor and conspiracy across the internet.

Most of these concerns came from the designation of Texas as a "hostile" territory. So, is this the beginning of the invasion of Texas or is it just military war games?

The KCBD investigative team spoke with military officials and the Lubbock County Director of Emergency Management to answer viewers' questions.

Starting in July, counties across this state will begin seeing increased military activity.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command is conducting a training exercise that expands over several southern states, including Texas.

Officials said they give names to larger training exercises and there is no particular meaning behind the name, Jade Helm 15.

The U.S. Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office said the training will take place on public and private land, which has raised concerns with some citizens.

Jade Helm 15 is a multi-state Department of Defense-approved training exercise that will take place across Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

Multi-state training exercises are not unique, but the size and scope of Jade Helm 15 sets it apart, making some people nervous.

"Hundreds, hundreds of emails, hundreds of phone calls. Some of them have been frantic," said Lubbock County Judge Tom Head, the statutory County Director of Emergency Management.

Head said he began looking into the training about two months ago.

"In the course of my investigations, I have not found any concrete verifiable evidence to make me think that it is anything other than a military training exercise," Head said.

"From what I understand, nothing concerning Jade Helm is going to be above Interstate 20," he said.

KCBD requested a list of Texas counties that would be included in the military exercise. They are spread out across the state and include Camps Bullis and Swift, Bastrop, Burleson, Edwards, Howard, Hudspeth, Kimble, Marion, Menard, Real, Schleicher and Tom Green Counties.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command's Public Affairs Office confirmed portions of the training will take place on public property coordinated with government officials and also on private land volunteered by landowners.

In April, people from Bastrop County and other areas came armed with questions for Lieutenant Colonel Mark Lastoria, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesperson, who spent two hours answering questions.

"I'm thrilled. I was glad to hear the presentation today," said Don Nichols, a Bastrop resident and Vietnam veteran. "We are training the military and the special operations people specifically to go out and defend our country so we can have that right."

Others remain unconvinced.

"Would the court be offended if I told the colonel that I didn't believe a single word that he just said?" said one attendee, whose comment was followed by cheers across the room.

"Everybody is on edge, everybody has a lot of questions. I think the military could do a little better job of explaining what their intentions are," said West Texas Resident Don Meeks.

"Support your military, be aware of what they are doing, pay attention and hope for the best," Meeks said.

Lt. Col. Lastoria said several people's concerns stem from the leak of unclassified military documents that label Utah, Texas and a portion of California as "hostile" territories.

"This is in preparation for the financial collapse and maybe even Obama not leaving office. I mean, I'm telling you, this is so huge," said talk-show host Alex Jones.

"They are preparing to initiate martial law and maybe even roundups. This is not a joke, this is the real deal," said Lisa Haven on her YouTube channel.

But according to documents given to KCBD by Lt. Col. Lastoria, Jade Helm has nothing to do with martial law and U.S. Army personnel will not be used as domestic law enforcement.

Lt. Col. Lastoria confirmed about 1,200 army personnel will be involved in the eight-week around the clock training that begins July 15.

So why Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida? According to the public affairs office, the diverse terrain replicates areas where special operations soldiers regularly find themselves overseas and provides realistic training environments in terms of challenging terrain, distance, borders, and population density.

With concerns lingering, Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor "military personnel movements and training exercise schedules" and ensure that the safety and constitutional rights of Texans are not being violated.

In a letter dated April 28, addressed to Major General Gerald Betty, Command of the Texas State Guard, Governor Abbott wrote, "I expect to receive regular updates on the progress and safety of the Operation."

What does Lubbock County's Director of Emergency Operations advise?

"Have a plan. Just be ready for anything that happens. Don't be surprised, but don't jump to conclusions. I think there is a lot of misinformation, a lot of speculation and conjecture probably because a lot of West Texas people don't trust the federal government. I think that has kind of fueled it a little bit, but I haven't seen any evidence to make me think that Jade Helm is anything other than just a training exercise," Head said.

PDF: Frequently Asked Questions about Jade Helm

PDF: Request To Conduct Realistic Military Training

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