I grew up in East Texas, running around the woods, camping, hunting and generally getting into trouble. I haven’t been home in a while due to twenty-plus years in the military and now living in South Carolina, but I still have family there. From what they’re telling me, something has clearly changed from my childhood days. Jade Helm, a USASOC Realistic Military Training event, is coming to certain Texas locales, and the population is losing its mind over “sinister” implications. FEMA concentration camps, UN gun-grabbers, and anything else that can be extrapolated, has been. Why? I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out why this exercise has generated such controversy, as it’s truly confusing. How can a state that breaks its arm trying to congratulate veterans, that declared a Chris Kyle day, assume that those same service members they’ve been cheering in the Dallas Airport are now out to enslave the entire state? Truthfully, that’s what really burns me. The men who planned the exercise, and the men who will execute the exercise, are me. Texas, the land I grew up in, is basically saying I – and the men I served with – are willingly planning to round them up and put them into concentration camps. Why? How has the Internet been able to leverage such unfounded paranoia? When did we go from supporting the troops to denigrating them as oppressors?

I think it’s systemic of the divide between the 1% who serve and the 99% who never have, coupled with the Internet revolution. There are so few veterans in the population, it’s easy to convince a non-veteran that something nefarious is afoot – especially when one loony vet begins a tirade. All of the sudden, he’s the voice of reason. And with the Internet, everything becomes true.

Recently, I wrote a blog about how it was misguided for a Texas congressman to push for the MOH for Chris Kyle, and how a non-veteran doesn’t understand the implications. I think the same thing is occurring here with the civilian population, fed by a bunch of Internet trolls who claim expertise. One of the biggest is Alex Jones from InfoWars, and it’s not the first time he’s blathered on about martial law. In 1999, Special Operations Forces conducted training in Corpus Christi and Kingsville, Texas. Hot on the scene was Alex Jones, peddling his paranoia about the Army ignoring Posse Comitatus and preparing to enslave the masses. Back then, nobody outside of a small radius in Texas listened. Now, with the internet, Jones gets a megaphone, and gets away with his outlandish proclamations precisely because there aren’t enough veterans in the local population to dispute it, while he finds a couple of loony vets to peddle his propaganda.

He’s been at it for decades (in case you didn’t know it, the Boston bombing was a “false flag attack” to allow martial law, and the Asymmetric Warfare Group’s battle lab is actually a government concentration camp just waiting on the execute order – I do a lot of work with the AWG, and that theory is so laughable I have a hard time typing it.). 1999 was a long time ago, and the mass roundups predicted by Jones in Kingsville still haven’t happened. What DID happen was that two short years later those same warriors were putting into action everything they’d learned in Texas, taking it to the enemy after 9/11. Every one of them were on my left and right, and I’m damn glad Texas allowed them to train, despite Alex Jones’ raving paranoia. And I’m glad its allowed now with Jade Helm.

For anyone who’s served a day in the military, Jade Helm is just an exercise. It’s not about martial law and rounding up firearms. It’s about training for combat. Honestly, I don’t understand how Texas can scream for the MOH for Chris Kyle, and then turn around and declare that the participants of Jade Helm are practicing to confiscate all of their guns or pattern areas for roundup. Do they think for a minute that Chris Kyle would have participated in such a training event? No? Then why do they think his teammates would? That’s who’s coming to Texas. Navy SEALs, among other Special Operations Forces. How can Marcus Luttrell – who lives in Texas – be treated with such adulation, and yet the men he fought and trained alongside now be derided as evil? It’s schizophrenic, and the theories are absolutely crazy.

One of the worst is that WalMart has closed five stores in Jade Helm areas in preparation for practicing re-education camps. Just think of that for a moment. WalMart, the very symbol of capitalism, a company that has been fighting the present administration since day one, has now decided to CLOSE five stores in an administration conspiracy to allow them to be used for fascist purposes? It’s insane. (As a side note, on the “only poor kids fight our nation’s wars” fallacy, John Walton – the son of the founder Sam Walton – fought in Vietnam with MACVSOG on a Special Forces recon team).

Jade Helm type training events have been going on for a long, long time – way before the Internet had a global audience. At a Bastrop “town hall”, USASOC gave a briefing to quell all of the fears. One man said, “It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany…”

Ridiculous. I promise that man isn’t a vet, but he does bring up an interesting connection to Jade Helm: In 1943, when Nazi Germany was actually a threat, the first mass tactical parachute operation was conducted near the town of Camden, South Carolina, in preparation for D-Day. The townsfolk came out and cheered on the paratroopers as they practiced invading the Fatherland. Lucky for them, they were in South Carolina. If they had jumped in Texas, with Alex Jones and an Internet bullhorn, they’d have been shot coming down under canopy.

The divide between the lack of veterans’ experiences in the local population has popped up in other areas. CNN breathlessly reported that the National Guard, in official orders, had called the Ferguson protestors “enemy forces”, which spun the left up into a tizzy much like is happening in Texas. If anyone at CNN had served a day in the military, they would have recognized that the term came from the 5 paragraph Operations Order, which is standard throughout the Army. The first paragraph is Situation, which is broken down into two parts: 1. Friendly Forces – what assets you have to complete the mission, who’s on your left and right, etc. 2. Enemy Forces – who is opposing you. The threat. It wasn’t a nefarious decision made by the National Guard because they were out to attack the protestors. It was simply the Operations Order format that has been around since WW II. In fact, when deployed for hurricane relief, the National Guard puts the weather itself into the Enemy Forces paragraph. No word yet whether the Almighty has shit a brick over that.

The military has routinely conducted training outside military reservations precisely because such training is more realistic, especially for Special Operations Forces. You can only assault the same broken-down concrete building on post before it loses its training value. Trust me, we’d much rather train in Yemen, but that’s a little bit problematic. For this reason, Robin Sage, the culmination exercise for the Special Forces Qualification Course, is conducted almost entirely off Fort Bragg, in the surrounding towns. The activities in that exercise could definitely be misconstrued as some UN roundup, but the townspeople don’t seem to freak out over it. Why? Because they’re mostly veterans. Jade Helm put out an official powerpoint – which has since been construed in all manner of ways as the spawn of the devil – and some have asked why they “advertised” it at all. The reason is that the local authorities have to be involved, read on, and willing. Otherwise terrible things can happen, as Robin Sage found out. In 2002 (yes, a RMT event from over a decade ago) a sheriff’s deputy pulled over a couple of Special Forces students participating in the exercise, dressed in civilian clothes. He found their military issued weapons and became suspicious. The students thought it was part of the exercise, as several role players are in fact the police. Long story short, things escalated until both students were shot, with one being killed, all because of a lack of communication.

One of the sticking points is that Texas has been labeled “hostile” for the exercise, which has led many a conspiracy buff to believe that the military did that because that’s what they believe. It’s not. Somone’s got to be hostile, I mean it’s a war-game after all. “Pineland”, the fictional country for Robin Sage, is also “hostile”, but nobody in North Carolina seems to get their panties in a knot over it. Camden, South Carolina took great pride in being the “hostile” town the 82nd Airborne parachuted into – holding a ceremony to commemorate the jump seventy years later. Trust me, nobody in the military thinks Texas is hostile. It’s just an exercise.

What’s ironic is that Texas was chosen precisely because the population is supportive of the military. I have had exercises canceled in other areas because the population was – to put it bluntly – military haters. In the words of the official PowerPoint, “The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has conducted numerous exercises in Texas, because Texans are historically supportive of efforts to prepare our soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors to fight the enemies of the United States.” (Emphasis mine)

Which brings up the final truth: Marcus Luttrell endured a hellish ordeal, and the lessons he brought home are being incorporated into training events today. Chris Kyle lamented that the only thing he regretted was the men he couldn’t save. On both counts, exercises such as this help hone our Special Operations Forces for battle, and Jade Helm may be the one that prevents someone’s death.

In World War II people gave up the necessities of life to allow the men to fight, rationing butter and meat, and allowing their towns to serve as vital training grounds for the assault on Fortress Europe against the greatest threat known to man. In the Global War on Terror, it’s the opposite. Even though the threat is just as bad, the ideology just as extreme, people don’t care. Screw that “sacrifice” thing. You guys go fight. I’ll drink my latte and tune in to Alex Jones, railing about how you’re really trying to enslave me.

Sacrifice is a lost virtue known only to the very veterans training for the fight. We don’t give anything but a flippant “thank you for your service”, meeting our obligation while storming Bastrop, Texas to accuse those same veterans of evil intentions. Far from sacrificing anything of value, we don’t even want the military to train in private lands we don’t own.

In the end, the exercise will be conducted, and no civilians will be rounded up. The Walmarts will remain closed (or reopen tomorrow – who knows?), and the UN convoys will never be seen. Alex Jones will move on to another conspiracy, more than likely involving the military like he’s been doing since at least 1999. All that will truly happen is that the lessons learned from the experiences of Texas heroes Luttrell, Kyle, and others will be passed on to a new generation of fighters. Hard fought lessons that might be needed to prevent the very fears being promulgated by an over-zealous Internet rumor pipeline.

For me, I thank God that the Internet wasn’t as prominent in Texas in 1999.  And I know for a fact that bad guys in Afghanistan and Iraq feel the exact opposite.

Update 2 May

1. A lot of the comments I have received revolve around a lack of trust in the current administration, and I can completely understand this, but the feeling is misguided when applied to Jade Helm.  For one, USASOC is a small subset of the United States Army, and an even smaller subset of the overall Department of Defense.  The administration had nothing to do with the conception, planning or execution of Jade Helm.  That is done by people like me.  Speaking of that, a lot of folks seem to think that when you join the military you trade in every value you’ve ever known and now blindly kill whatever you’re told to point your weapon at, as if the SOF Operators are all taking blue pills like Jason Bourne. That was a movie.  This is reality.  Texas is the number one producer of recruits for the Armed Services.  Do we really think that all of those recruits tossed aside everything they learned about duty and honor, and are now prepared to do something nefarious in their own hometown? I served under three presidents, and to suggest that my moral compass shifted after each election is morally repugnant to me and incorrect.

2. On social media and emails I was asked why the exercise has to happen off post anyway.  Up front, I’ll say I haven’t had a detailed briefing on Jade Helm.  I haven’t seen the OpOrders or synch matrices, but from what little I have seen, and having planned and executed a plethora of exercises like Jade Helm, here’s what I think: They are training for low visibility operations in foreign urban terrain, thus the intermingling with the civilian population. Doing it on a military post defeats the purpose, as the Operators are in their comfort zone. Putting them in an unfamiliar city full of strangers allows them to learn behaviors that will save their life when they’re being hunted in an urban environment overseas. It also enhances their problem solving. Believe it or not, this sort of thing happens all the time.  While teaching at The Citadel, I designed and executed an adaptive leadership exercise for Cadets where I placed them – in civilian clothes – inside the city of Charleston for a week, executing tasks, meeting timelines, and solving problems. The unfamiliar environment – away from what they knew of The Citadel – enhanced the learning. And yes, I had to brief law enforcement, the mayor, and the city council on the plan. Far from stating it was nefarious, LE actually participated, giving the Cadets a “problem” with arrest.

For people who still refuse to believe those two points, I’ll just throw out two more tidbits:

1.  Every LE organization, town council, and city hall in every state planned for Jade Helm approved it.  Are they also in on a grand conspiracy, or did they see that it was exactly what it professed to be: A SOF exercise.

2. Texas has the largest military base in the United States (Fort Hood).  If the military was truly planning something nefarious, why would they bother telegraphing that by briefing Jade Helm all over the state?  Why not use a military post located in the center of the state, not saying a word about it?  A post where people are used to seeing soldiers on a daily basis?  Logically, it makes no sense unless Jade Helm is exactly what it professes:  An exercise.

Finally, some have taken offense and claimed I was “disgusted” with Texas, reading in some personal insult.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s precisely because I’m from Texas that I wrote the blog.  If it had been another state, I would have shrugged and said, “Wow, are they off base.  Glad I don’t live there.”  Because I DO know the state and its historical support for the military, I was surprised and chagrined to see the uprising about Jade Helm.  It confused me.  My wife is from Fort Worth.  My inlaws live in Dallas and Austin.  My mother and sister still live in East Texas.  I could no more be disgusted with Texas than I could be disgusted with them.  Actually, I’ll give you a dirty little secret: Growing up in Texas, I hated being asked where I was born, because native Texans take that to heart.  I was born on Okinawa, Japan, while my dad was fighting in Vietnam.  I should have been proud of that, but instead, it was drilled into me that I was not a “native” Texan.  Because of it, I became more staunchly Texan than anyone else. That sounds stupid, but try being a child in grade school in a small Texas town.  Others reading this will scoff, but you Texans know what I mean.  My first memory of life was from Texas, so if you want to accuse me of no longer understanding – as one radio show host did in Texas – that’s your right.  But it’s simply not true.  Actually, I’ve wasted words here.  Just go tell my sister I’m not a Texan.  Then pick your ass up off the pavement when she clocks you.  If you still have some fight left, you’ll see her husband.  He’ll be the guy in the beard with the Harley.  Whose son is in the U.S. Army.

Update 3 May

Here’s a great example of the lack of understanding of the military. As I answered in a comment below, the name Jade Helm is just a random association of words spit out by a computer.  It’s done on every exercise and actually, even on real world missions – unless the real world mission is going to get national attention.  Operation Just Cause in Panama was known as Blue Spoon before the bullets started flying.  I’m sure someone could laboriously create what B.L.U.E. S.P.O.O.N. stood for, but they’d be making it up out of whole cloth.  It stood for two things spit out of a computer:  BLUE.  SPOON.  I used to conduct exercises in Thailand that were called Baker Tepid and Balance Torch.  Now, some idiot on the internet has “deciphered” the secret of what Jade Helm “means”.  Trust me, this is incorrect and just another example of how the internet can fan the flames.  The name Jade Helm is just as innocuous as the exercise itself.  It’s just two randomly picked words.