In response to the multi-state military exercise organized by the federal government, a group of very concerned Texans have organized what they're calling "Counter Jade Helm," in which "citizens will participate in an unofficial fashion to practice counter-insurgency, organizational and intelligence gathering and reporting skills."
Operation Jade Helm begins on July 15th, but as the media is barred from covering the exercise, citizen surveillance is the only option that people like retired firefighter Eric Johnson have to assuage their concerns about what the SEALs, Green Berets, and Air Force Special Ops are actually up to.
"If a team member sees two Humvees full of soldiers driving through town, they're going to follow them," Johnston told the Houston Chronicle's Dylan Baddour. "And they're going to radio back their ultimate location."
Johnson is just one of over 200 volunteers roped into service by former Marine Pete Lanteri, the Arizonan who created the website that concerned citizens can use to track and keep track of the military exercise.
"We're going to be watching what they do in the public," he said. "Obviously, on a military base they can do whatever they want. But if they're going to train on public land, we have a right as American citizens to watch what they're doing."
Johnson and Lanteri are both adamant that they don't believe the federal government is using the exercise as a practice run for declaring martial law, and that what they are doing is similar to what Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he would do in April -- order the Texas State Guard to "keep an eye" on the operation.
Lanteri told the Chronicle that he doesn't believe the United States military will be converting Walmarts into concentration camps, or any of the other Jade Helm-inspired conspiracies -- he's just "got a gut feeling" that there's more to the exercise than the federal government is willing to admit. He also noted that he's actively worked to keep those of a truly conspiratorial bent away from his people.
"Once I saw the freaking nut-jobs coming out of the woodwork I was spending half my day discrediting what they were posting," he said. "No nut-jobs will be put in the field."
For its part, the United State military continues to insist that this military training exercise is just that -- a military training exercise. In a statement, Army Special Operations said that "this training exercise will go mostly unnoticed; not interfere with private citizens and not violate their privacy and rights. It will not disrupt their economies or livelihoods. State and local officials will receive updates as the exercise progresses and they are equally committed to ensuring the training occurs smoothly."