Over the past few weeks and months, conspiracy theorist and prepper types around the country have been warning about a U.S. military exercise called Jade Helm.
Jade Helm 15 is a real — and massive — special forces training project set to take place this summer over seven states: Texas, New Mexico, California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
Military officials said in a news release that it's routine training, though unique in its scope and size. But some people have theorized that is it a sinister government operation to prepare for martial law, a new world order, and/or war with Russia. (Because several Walmarts in Jade Helm states closed suddenly, there is speculation that the retail giant is also involved.)
Mounting fears prompted the governor of Texas to ask its National Guard to monitor the military and make sure Texas citizens are protected. Rumors also forced Defense Secretary Ash Carter to say that the U.S. is not taking over Texas.
Videos posted online — of a military exercise taking place in downtown Fort Lauderdale at night, seeming to involve at least three helicopters and a mock hostage situation — are adding fuel to the fire and prompting rumors that the exercise is being extended into Florida.
ABC News explained some background on Jade Helm:
According to the U.S. Army website, Jade Helm is a multi-state training exercise taking place July 15 through Sept. 15 with members of U.S. Army Special Operations Command and service members from the military’s four branches....
In a March 24 press release from the Army, Jade Helm 15 was described simply as a “routine training exercise to maintain a high level of readiness.” The reason given for picking out the particular states, including Texas, is because each possesses a “unique terrain” that soldiers might find themselves operating in overseas.
But also in the same press release, the Army specifically notes Jade Helm 15 being separate from the pack, noting it for its “size and scope.” It led to several citizens raising their eyebrows over the idea of a surge of federal presence inside the state.
An unclassified PowerPoint purported to be from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command shows that the operation is deemed a "Realistic Military Training (RMT)," and it even has a goofy slogan that could be scary if taken seriously: "Jade Helm: Master the Human Domain." The PowerPoint noted that permission was needed from local officials to carry out the drills.
The government regularly conducts military readiness drills. Last year, one called Bold Alligator took place across multiple states, including Florida. This recurring drill is carried out every few years.
Asked about the Fort Lauderdale video, Broward Sheriff's office spokesperson Veda Coleman Wright said that it was taken in March and that her agency had issued this news release in advance. That release acknowledged that the military drill was for special forces training: "The purpose of the exercise is to provide U.S. Special Operations Forces with realistic urban sites for preparedness training." Jade Helm, however, is supposed to take place July 15 to September 15.
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Asked whether it was related to Jade Helm, Fort Lauderdale spokesperson Chaz Adams said he was "not familiar with this operation" and recommended contacting the military.
A message was left for the public affairs office that, according to the PowerPoint, is handling Jade Helm.
Mainstream and leftist news agencies are playing down the controversy over Jade Helm or even mocking the right-wingers — who in turn are calling those "lamestream" news outlets naive and worse.