The White House is trying to reassure the public and the governor of Texas that a special U.S. military training operation
in the Southwest will not pose a threat to residents amid speculation that it could amount to a federal takeover.
"In no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, according to The Washington Times
Operation Jade Helm 15 is a special warfare exercise aimed at training the military for combat. It is scheduled to begin in July and continue through September, but critics and conspiracy theorists have cited a range of concerns, prompting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to order the Texas State Guard
to monitor the operation.
In a letter to Major Gen. Gerald Betty of the Texas State Guard, Abbott said he was taking the action "to address concerns of Texas citizens," according to the Times.
"During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed," the governor wrote. "I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15."
The White House's comments came after U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria tried to assure Texas residents that the operation was routine and valuable in preparing soldiers for real missions.
"The terrain is very challenging and it's going to make our soldiers sweat, and sweating in peacetime is what we want because it's going to reduce the bleeding in wartime," he said.
Residents, however, have continued to voice concerns and fears.
"It's the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany," Bob Wells of Bastrop, Texas, told the Austin American-Statesman, according to the Times.
"You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police. They're gathering intelligence. That's what they're doing. And they're moving logistics in place for martial law. That's my feeling. Now I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I'm a 'conspiracy theorist.' "
The operation will span 12 Texas counties and include all four branches of the military involving 1,200 special forces.
Lastoria said soldiers would either be wearing uniforms or an orange arm band to signal that they are part of the training exercise.
Earnest reinforced that message.
"My understanding is that the individuals who are participating in the exercise won't be traveling incognito, that they'll be wearing arm bands," he said, according to the Times.
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