Who is Jade Helm? You would be forgiven for not having a clue. People asked that very question a couple of days ago, by a reporter for National Public Radio, didn’t know either. Maybe if he’d said Operation Jade Helm 15 he’d have got a better response, though I think that doubtful.
But oh my, those three little words, Operation Jade Helm, has got factions of Texas in a tizzy; and our new governor, Greg Abbott, has shown his colours by pandering to their paranoia. Operation Jade Helm 15 is a complex military training exercise, using four branches of the armed forces, slated to go from July 15th through to September 15th across seven states, including 17 locations in Texas. The premiss behind the exercise, by the very word a simulation, is that parts of the southern United States are hostile. The exercise, will involve special forces carrying out covert operations in these ‘fictional hostile’ territories. It is by all accounts a rather grand scheme, with participants travelling amongst us. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, assured reporters in a press briefing that those taking part won’t be incognito, saying, “They’ll be wearing armbands.”
The good residents of parts of Texas will not though be pacified, and see the whole operation as a ploy by the federal government to occupy and then declare martial law in their state. As, they believe, a dastardly back door plan to gain intelligence and seize their personal weapons. Of which I imagine there a great many in those particular counties. I can’t help feeling there is not much intelligence to gain.
A town hall meeting was called in Bastrop, with Army officials attempting to calm the overactive imaginations of the people obviously with little else to do but come up with conspiracy theories. Their hand painted signs said it all. Keep America Free. Don’t Train on Me, or Tread. And one I thought in particularly poor taste, No Gestapo in Bastropo.
So what does Governor Abbott do? He mollifies these people by “directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15.” Now Texas has three branches of military, all commanded by the governor. The other two arms are the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. The State Guard is a volunteer militia based at Camp Mabry near Austin, the state capital. It’s mission is to be ready, willing and able “to assist state and local authorities in time of state emergencies…” Members who have served in the federal military enter with a higher rank than those with no military service, or ROTC training. Civilians wishing to volunteer must undertake basic training. Thank goodness for that. I suppose it’s a bit like having a Gloucestershire, or maybe Northumberland guard, to keep those pesky Welsh or Scots at bay.
Aides for Governor Abbott have said, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, “there will be no additional costs to the state to monitor the Army exercises.” But if there were costs to be incurred, and time will only tell, when the State Guard is called out by the governor and placed on state active duty, members receive a daily stipend of $121, regardless of rank. Just as a matter of interest, that’s double the minimum hourly wage of $7.25 in the US.
We in Texas can rest easy. A representative for the State Guard has said, “We are always ready to answer the call of the governor, and we are in the initial planning and coordination phase in response to the governor’s directive.” Oh, thank goodness.
So not only will there be more than a 1,000 federal troops traipsing across Texas this summer, practicing their warcraft so they may battle ready to protect the entire country, or another country, there will now be the State Guard following them around.
The governor has been quick to reassure the United States Army that he holds them in the highest esteem, so that’s alright then.
I find it incredible that people, purportedly some of them professional so presumably university educated, can live their lives in rural Texas in such a state of perpetual anxiety. I can only believe television, radio and the print media do not actually reach some of these areas. Do they not know there are real wars, real battles, real human tragedies taking place all over the world? Is their world so small they truly believe the federal government is intent on taking over their little bit of Texas?
This is not the Ukraine, and the President of the United States can not in anyway be compared to President Putin; for a start he doesn’t go around bare-chested. I shudder to think what the good people of Goliad, Texas, would believe if they had joint Russian and Chinese naval exercises taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, as will be happening this month in the Mediterranean.
Once again Texas is set to become the comedic butt of late-night television – we’ve only just got over the previous governor’s remarks about secession from the Union. Our current governor appears intent on following the same parochial outlook.