The military exercise Jade Helm 15 generated enough conspiracy theories this year that it garnered mockery on late-night television, commentary from presidential candidates and reaction from the Texas governor. The basic thrust of the concerns: The military was laying the groundwork for martial law _ if not now, then sometime in the future.
The exercise will end quietly Tuesday, however. Carried out in parts of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, it will conclude after two months of operations, said Suzanne Nagl, a spokeswoman for Army Special Operations Command, which oversaw it.
“At this time, we do not have any lessons learned to share since we have not yet conducted an after-action review of the exercise, but we do believe the exercise overall was a success,” Nagl said in an email.
As initially detailed in planning documents, the exercise was to include elite service members from four military branches. It eventually was reduced to include 200 Special Operations forces and an additional 300 support personnel for most of the exercise, with about 700 hundred members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division traveling to Texas to train as part of Jade Helm for about five days in August.
The story began garnering attention in March, after planning slides for the exercise, likely prepared for government officials in Texas, began circulating online. They labeled Texas, Utah and a section of southern California as hostile territory, and New Mexico as uncertain territory leaning hostile.
The military has routinely held training exercises like Jade Helm in the past. But this one took on a life of its own before it even began. An informational meeting attended by citizens and local government officials in Bastrop, Texas, in April generated national attention after several people accused the federal government of preparing for a takeover.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered the Texas State Guard, a militia he oversees, to monitor the exercise. He said he did so to address the concerns of Texans, but was mocked by some critics for giving voice to conspiracy theories.
Notably, comedian Jon Stewart ripped Abbott by saying he was catering to “Lone Star lunatics” in a segment on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
“Oh dear Lord,” Stewart said. “Yet another waste of Texas funds that could have been spent on actual threats, like your infamous chainsaw massacres. Texas, it’s not that I don’t find it adorable that your governor thinks your State Guard could take on the United States military. It’s like a little dog growling at a big dog, or an 8-year-old picking a fight with the Predator.”
Republican presidential candidates also weighed in, with Sen. Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, saying he wanted more information from the Pentagon and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry telling Texas residents they should trust the military.
Gawker reported last week that the Texas State Guard saw an increase in recruiting after Abbott’s decision. Guard officials called it a “great opportunity,” Gawker reported, citing emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.