Texas Governor Greg Abbott is ordering the Texas State Guard to monitor a two-month long U.S. military exercise scheduled to be held in Bastrop County this summer. The move comes amid suspicions from some residents (and the Internet) about the motivations behind the training.
The exercises, designated Operation Jade Helm 15, will involve more than 1,200 soldiers, Marines and others between July 15 and September 15. The military says the exercise is intended to train personnel on acclimating to unfamiliar terrain and climates.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Lastoria, says the summer months will offer an ideal training climate.
"After driving around Texas all of two weeks ago logging in about 900 miles in less than 48 hours, I can see the terrain is very challenging and is going to make our soldiers sweat,” Lastoria said. “And sweating in peacetime is what we want because we want to reduce the bleeding in wartime."
On Monday, dozens of people filled the Bastrop County Commissioners Court to voice concerns about the military exercises. Lastoria took a number of questions from people who suspect Jade Helm is something nefarious. Bastrop County resident Daniel DuCloux has some reservations about the training program.
"I think historically, it's much more common for governments to be tyrannical and infringe on other's rights,” DuCloux said. “So when you see a large military build-up like this, I think it's our duty as citizens to question what's going on and to find answers. I mean, if we don't, then who will?"
Governor Abbott, apparently sensitive to those concerns, instructed the Commander of the Texas State Guard, Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty, to monitor and update the Governor’s office.
I've ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 to safeguard Texans' constitutional rights, private property & civil liberties
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 28, 2015
In a letter to Betty, Abbott says monitoring the exercises will let the state stay informed about training schedules and help facilitate communications with local law enforcement and citizens.
You can read Abbott’s full letter here.
Abbott concludes the letter to General Betty saying, “as Governor, I have the utmost respect for the deep patriotism of the brave military men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for and defend our freedom. I remain certain that our military members will keep America the freest and strongest nation the world has ever known.”
“I think this would probably have been an issue that Governor Abbott could have ignored, but perhaps he feels that by writing this letter, he’ll be able to mollify the concerns of some of these individuals [who've voiced concerns]," said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, adding "although I doubt that will be the case; anyone who I think believes that there was a conspiracy by the U.S. military is unlikely to be mollified by a letter from the governor.”