It's been said that actor and martial arts master Chuck Norris "can put out a fire using a gallon of gasoline.”
But Mr. Norris' claim that the upcoming multi-state US military training exercise, Jade Helm 15, is really a plan to take over Texas, has done just the opposite, inflaming conspiracy theorists while prompting both jokes and official explanations.
The US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) announced on March 24 that its members will train with other US Armed Forces units from July 15 through Sept. 15 in a multi-state exercise called Jade Helm 15.
According to a USASOC website, “To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states. However, Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.”
The exercise will be conducted on private and public land with the permission of the private landowners, and from state and local authorities, according to the announcement.
Mr. Norris wrote about Jade Helm 15 in a commentary for the conservative website WND last weekend, pointing to the decision of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to have the Texas State Guard monitor the Pentagon’s Jade Helm 15 military ops as evidence that the operations as a potential threat to the state’s sovereignty.
Governor Abbott wrote: “During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.” And Abbott is demanding “regular updates on the progress and safety of the Operation.”
Norris fanned the conspiracy flames by writing: “Concerned Texans and Americans are in no way calling into question our brave and courageous men and women in uniform. They are merely following orders. What’s under question are those who are pulling the strings at the top of Jade Helm 15 back in Washington. The US government says, ‘It’s just a training exercise.’ But I’m not sure the term ‘just’ has any reference to reality when the government uses it.”
According to published reports, Walmart issued a statement to Talking Points Memo debunking a conspiracy theory that the military has already created a system of underground tunnels below five closed Walmart outlets and that “the closed stores, one of which is located in Texas, will serve as ‘food distribution centers’ and will be used to ‘house the headquarters of invading troops from China, here to disarm Americans one by one.’"
Twitter erupted with #JadeHelm15 tweets ranging from conspiracy theories to Dr. Who parodies and memes.
Asked to respond to Mr. Norris’ and others’ concerns, the USASOC Public Affairs office in Fort Bragg, N.C., answered the following questions:
How often does the Army or National Guard do such training exercises?
“US Army Special Operations Command has conducted multistate training exercises before but Jade Helm-15 will become the largest.”
What is Jade Helm15 really?
“Training exercise Jade Helm is a routine training event that provides US Army Special Operations Forces the opportunity to practice core special warfare tasks for use overseas to help protect our national security interests. The training exercise will be conducted on military bases, private, state and federal lands from July 15th through Sept. 15th, 2015. All exercise activities have been precoordinated with federal, state and municipal officials, as well as with volunteer private land owners."
"US Army Special Operations Command is conducting Jade Helm-15 to train US Special Operations Forces to respond to an international crisis. Personnel will train together during this eight-week period to further strengthen their working relationship for future deployments. They will also use this opportunity to further develop tactics, techniques, and procedures for emerging concepts in SOF warfare.”
Mr. Norris appears to base his fears on having seen the training maps which have Texas labeled as "Hostile." Can you please respond to this point?
“The 'hostile' label was part of the exercise design. It is fictional and is not intended to represent any belief that the state of Texas is hostile.”
Can you please address the concerns he has over the use of abandon Walmart locations for any military purpose.
“The rumors about Jade Helm and any association with recent closings of Walmarts are untrue.”
Mr. Norris also contends this exercise is really a prelude to a declaration of martial law.
“No. Training exercise Jade Helm does not have anything to do with martial law. Its sole purpose it to train US Special Operations Forces in their core skill sets for future use overseas.”
Does Chuck Norris have anything to be worried about?