A military training exercise that started this week has been causing quite the stir in the southwest.
The name of the operation is Jade Helm 15, an eight week special operations exercise that divides parts of the U.S. into hostile, friendly, and neutral territories. The exercise’s secrecy and scope have conspiracy theorists worried of a military takeover.
The southwestern United States will play host to the activities. California, Nevada, and Colorado are friendly territories, Arizona is leaning friendly, New Mexico is leaning hostile, and Texas and Utah are the hostile territories. Those concerned with the exercise think the role playing might be taken too far, but most lawmakers see no need for concern.
"It’s not martial law, it’s military training," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
"This whole conspiracy theory is nonsense and the quicker we put it to bed, the better," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho).
Controversy and paranoia have surrounded the operation for months, mainly on the internet. A large part of the concern is coming from Texas. Some think the Obama administration is coming to take over.
"I think a couple of people have probably agitated a little bit on this," said Cole. "And you know, maybe they really were concerned. There’s a deep distrust in the federal government in a variety of areas right now and frankly a distrust in this administration."
It is the biggest military exercise ever in the U.S., but not the first. An Army command spokesman said that warfare is constantly evolving, and exercise Jade Helm will train their special operations forces to be ready for these changing foreign threats.
"Lots of people tend to ask, ‘Well then why can’t they train on bases?’ Well, sometimes you want them training in different locales, where they don’t know every crook and cranny so to speak," said Cole.
Said Simpson: "I think that if our military can’t train, and train in the states, and be supported by the states, then we’ve got a big problem."
Another reason some are concerned with the operation -- it’s closed to the press. The exercise is set to end on Sept. 15.
Special Operations Command has said that state and local officials have been informed as to the exact scope of their training exercise, and will continue to be updated as the exercise progresses.