Unconventional warfare exercise in the Hill Country
LEAKEY, Texas -- The military says Real County deep in the heart of the Hill Country is the perfect place for a new training operation called Jade Helm.
"Jade Helm is a challenging, eight week military and interagency unconventional warfare exercise," said an Army representative to a packed Real County Courthouse.
What Army representatives say "unconventional warfare exercises" means in regards to Jade Helm is special forces blending in to small towns and better communicating with locals.
Hypothetically, according to the military, Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Colorado have been "taken over" by an enemy. Elite forces then infiltrate those states and learn how to better relate and communicate with - again, fictitious - rebels who are fighting against the occupiers. That's the basis of Jade Helm.
The military says it had already made arrangements with a rancher in Real County to use his property for Jade Helm operations. The only thing stopping the military was the approval of county commissioners.
Lieutenant Col. Mark Lastoria says in other parts of the country, Special Forces go into small towns like Leakey for Jade Helm.
"A lot of it will be just building relationships with people. We want to get away from the military installations where you tend to talk to people the same way and when you come to build relationships and a lot of the training is about building relationships," said Lastoria.
In the case of Real County, the promise from the military that it will NOT mingle with locals was met mostly with jeers from residents. The Army says it will conduct tactical training operations in the agreed upon private property.
"Just to be very clear, we are not here to train on how to be an occupying force. We are here to train on how to aid a resistance against an occupying force," added Army spokespersons.
Most of the people who attended and spoke had a hard time believing that.
"We are a little apprehensive... In the fact of because of who our commander in chief is," said a man to the Army spokesperson who addressed the crowd.
Commissioners, however, unanimously voted to allow the military to conduct Jade Helm in Real County.
Jade Helm gets underway in Real County for three days later this year. Most of the training will be done overnight and no live ammunition rounds will be used.
Additionally, the military says it's looking into coming back to Real County for more training.