Jade Helm 15 sounds like the umpteenth sequel of a Chuck Norris series of action films. Or a girl band from Singapore. Apparently it is neither of these things, but rather a Realistic Military Training, or RMT, exercise in the Southwest that will last 2 months from mid-July to mid-September. While the DOD has been fairly proactive about informing the public over how their communities may be affected, it has not said too much about what purpose in the real world this exercise will be preparing elite military members for. No, this is not to join the conspiracy theories abounding, especially in Texas. Rather, one wonders if this is to prepare ground troops, for example, for re-entry into the Middle East.

A key part of the controversy is the map released by the DOD that shows an exercise targeting friendly, hostile and neutral states – with the neutral states leaning either hostile, or friendly. That Texas and Utah are hostile – along with a pocket of Southern California – has been manna to the conspiracy theorists. The more interesting question, aside from the fact that private property owners have invited the military in, is where abroad are the conditions in summer in that swath of the country replicated? Not just terrain, but politically: as in several states of varying degrees of hostility clustered in a relatively contiguous manner, with terrain that is mountainous, rugged, and arid? All of them drenched in blistering heat – at least during the day?

It does seem to be an RMT exercise that would allow troops to experience Middle Eastern-like conditions before being shipped out to join the chaotic ever-changing battleground centered in Syria and Iraq. And Jade Helm 15 – way more than they expected – makes communication with or against locals an important objective. As U.S. Army Operations Command’s released report on the exercise states:

“To hone advanced skills the military and Interagency require large areas of undeveloped land with low population densities with access to towns … to challenge joint and IA personnel during planning and execution of their tasks. These challenges include:
– Operating outside the normal support mechanisms
– Adapting to unfamiliar terrain, social and economic conditions
– Operating in and around communities where anything out of the ordinary will be spotted and reported (Locals are the first to notice something out of place)
– The opportunity to work with civilians to gain their trust and an understanding of the issues”

In other words, part of the exercise is how invisible military units can be with regard to locals noticing anything different. Clearly this is a very focused exercise whose complete purpose will not be divulged by the DOD precisely because it may impact on any planned operation. That planned operation would clearly seem to be abroad and not in the heart of the Southwest. Still, there’s something a touch unsettling about the whole operation, even if it is clearly a necessary exercise.