BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — Since April, the town of Bastrop has anticipated the arrival of more than 60 U.S. military troops as part of the military exercise known as Operation Jade Helm 15. However, hours before the eight-week training program, there were no signs of troops or military vehicles.
“Where’s Jade Helm?” Dan Whitaker, owner of Dans Guns and Stuff LLC said. “That’s the big question that everybody is asking because nobody has seen anything.”
Whitaker said Jade Helm 15 has been the talk of the town since the U.S. military announced the program in April. Quickly, conspiracy theories formed and residents expressed their concerns about the program invading their hometown.
“What you would expect to see is equipment and material coming in that they are going to actually have to live with and use, but you just don’t see it,” Whitaker said.
“There’s two theories, which both of them lead to martial law. Either which way it goes,” believes Michael Holmes, manager of Bastrop Guardian storage. “Whether it is because of the asteroid coming and they’re preparing for evacuations and things of that nature for the asteroid, or it’s for martial law to take over nation. But both of them point to the same thing which is the destruction of our nation.”
Troy Michalik, owner of Crosshairs Texas of Bastrop, said tempers have cooled down since the initial reaction to the news. He believes a lot of the anger stemmed from county officials agreeing to the training before notifying residents.
“We support our military, we’re behind those guys. Right now we understand they’re really proficient at fighting in the desert and they need to see other environments, which we have here,” said Michalik. But, he does agree there’s a need to verify and be vigilant.
Monday, the U.S. Army Special Operation Command provided more information about what the residents should expect when the program is launched in seven states on Wednesday.
“The exercise will take place across seven states and primarily occur on pre-coordinated private property and military installations,” the statement reads. “Applicable local and state officials were notified as to the extent of training that will occur off military installations.”
The statement also provided the locations in which the exercises will take place. Texas will host 14 locations, the most of any state participating in the operation.
“If the military comes in and are doing their training exercises, I don’t think they will mess with anybody,” Whitaker said. “It could even be good for the local economy, so I say to them, ‘Jade Helm, come on down, we are waiting for you.’”
“If it comes and goes peacefully, great, we’re all happy. But we’re of the mindset, us that know, know that it’s not.”