Texas civilians find all is quiet during Jade Helm exercise
By MARTY TOOHEY | Austin American-Statesman (Tribune News Service) | Published: July 15, 2015
BASTROP, Texas (Tribune News Service) — The search for Jade Helm 15 began Wednesday for Derrick Broze and Mark Jankins with a drive through Camp Swift.
The two men, who drove into Bastrop intending to monitor part of the U.S. military’s Special Operations exercise spanning seven states, said they saw nothing out of the ordinary. In Camp Swift itself, as elsewhere in Bastrop, Jade Helm was nowhere to be seen, the two men said, noting they had been escorted out after driving fairly far into the Texas Army National Guard post and taking pictures.
“We just thought we would come out and see what’s going on, as opposed to having people tell us what’s going on, and tell us the United Nations is coming in or something like that,” Jankins, who is from Round Rock, said as he stood in the parking lot across Texas 21 from one of Camp Swift’s entrances.
“There wasn’t really a lot going on,” he added.
That was how the day went in Bastrop, a city of roughly 7,000 that made national news earlier this year after people at a public meeting about Jade Helm shouted accusations of a military takeover at an Army lieutenant colonel. That meeting followed weeks of speculation on the Internet that the training exercise could be used to impose martial law.
If there is such a plan, it wasn’t in evidence Wednesday. The military isn’t releasing the location of the training on private property, but says it will be little noticed, if at all. Bastrop — a town with military ties, roots that reach back to the founding of Texas and a mayor who is trying to establish an International Society of Bridge Spitters — looked no different than it usually does, as military officials and Bastrop leaders predicted.
Eric Johnston, a retired firefighter from Kerrville who is the Texas spokesman for the group Counter Jade Helm, said six volunteers arrived Wednesday in Bastrop to keep an eye out for the military exercises. The volunteers, he said, will only be “observing and reporting” troop activities in public areas. He said he followed a water truck he thought belonged to the military, but it turned out to be civilian; that kind of monitoring is about as aggressive as Counter Jade Helm will be, he said.
“We, for lack of a better term, are performing a neighborhood watch over Jade Helm exercises,” Johnston said.
He said the Counter Jade Helm participants don’t believe a military takeover is afoot, but he said the federal government’s contradictory statements have given Americans reason to worry. For instance, he said, a military spokesman said the operation would partly involve seeing if the troops could infiltrate the population, but also said they would be wearing military uniforms with bright orange arm bands.
More volunteers with Counter Jade Helm will arrive over the next few days, said Pete Lanteri, a retired Marine and Minuteman organizer who founded the effort.
“The main point is so people know there are regular citizens monitoring this,” Lanteri said. “Hopefully this will calm people down.”
At Gov. Greg Abbott’s request, the Texas State Guard has set up a joint operations center at Austin’s Camp Mabry, with four or five troops keeping in touch each day with Jade Helm organizers. The State Guard is providing a daily report to the governor that includes a summary of the previous 24 hours and a 72-hour look ahead.
The goal is to make the governor’s office a clearinghouse that residents with concerns can call. Most of the calls have been of the logistical nature, the governor’s office said, such as whether rumors of a helicopter circling on a particular day are true.
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