Imagine: it’s tax season. You fill out your forms, tally up every deduction, and seal everything away in a manila envelope. You whistle your way down to the post office. You may even grab a cup of coffee on the way. And just as you pull the little door on that blue mailbox, ready to ship it all to the IRS, you see a pair of eyes in the dark and out pops a Green Beret like a fully armed prairie dog.
Ok, it’s not quite that dramatic. But a group of 1,200 special ops forces are about to conduct a "Realistic Military Training" exercise throughout seven states in the Southwest. Green Berets, Navy SEALS, as well as Special Forces from the Air Force and Marines will conduct the drill in towns throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
As part of Operation Jade Helm, which begins in July and will last for eight weeks, soldiers will parachute into strategic locations lugging weapons loaded with blanks. According to the Houston Chronicle, some planned exercises will involve the soldiers attempting to operate undetected, and the military will then survey residents to see just how stealthy the operations had been.
"The size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart," the US Army Special Operations Command said in a statement. "To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states."
But what really worries many residents is that Operation Jade Helm will consider the entire populations of Utah and Texas to be "hostile." According to unclassified documents released by the Army, the exercise will also consider a large portion of southern California to be an "Insurgent Pocket."
Many conservative commentators have suggested that the exercise is less about training for conflict overseas, and more about preparing for the event of martial law.
"We've got huge news ladies and gentlemen. They’re having Delta Force, Navy SEALS with the Army trained to basically take over," Alex Jones, of InfoWars, said Sunday. "Texas is listed as a hostile sector, and of course, we are. We’re here defending the republic."
Another conservative blog, Freedom Outpost, wrote "Operation Jade Helm – military trains for martial law in American South-west [sic]."
"This drill is about the brutal martial subjugation of the people of Texas, Utah, and Southern California who have risen up against unspecified tyranny," Sleuth Journal wrote. Speaking hypothetically, of course.
The military – as well as local law enforcement – dismisses these claims as outlandish.
"The concerns expressed center around misinterpretations," Army Special Command spokesman Mark Lastoria said, according to the Chronicle. "Unofficial sources providing inaccurate information on Jade Helm want people to believe that it’s something other than a training exercise."
Jim Stewart of the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office that the drill has been planned for months, and is a fairly common exercise.
"Special ops for years have trained off-post, where they go out and have folks that are role players out on the economy," Stewart told the Chronicle. "They’ll have a scenario they’ll be following and they’ll interact with these role players as if they’re in another country."
Special Operations Command says insists the “diverse terrain” of the Southwest appropriately mimics the conditions of American combat zones overseas.
Whether or not the concerns are overblown, the Army has been receiving a slew of phone calls from citizens worried that America is invading… itself.