So it seems that two little words really can cause a stir. Presidential election, gun control, race relations. Then there is Jade Helm. While likely not burned into the memory of the average American, Jade Helm is more familiar to special operations and conventional military troops, as well as theorists (conspiracy and otherwise).

According to the unclassified (for official use only) Request to Conduct Realistic Training—JADE HELM 15 (RCRT-JH15) posted by the United States Army Special Operations Command, JH “is a challenging eight-week joint military and interagency (IA) unconventional warfare (UW) exercise conducted throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.” The seven states and divided regions therein are designated as hostile, permissive, uncertain (leaning hostile) and uncertain (leaning friendly), with, for example, California designated as a largely blue (permissive) region with a small portion of the south in red (hostile) based on insurgent activity in the area. Here is a graphic of the exercise’s geographic layout.

Exercise participants come from across the Department of Defense and U.S. government, and include U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Green Berets), U.S. Navy SEALs, U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command, U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Units, 82nd Airborne Division and some interagency partners (likely, but not confirmed: FBI, CIA, DHS and others).

The RCRT states upfront the goals that the exercise hopes to accomplish: to improve the unconventional warfare capability of U.S. special operations forces as part of the national security strategy, and to determine the pros and cons associated with the exercise. The pros, as stated, include a financial deposit into the local economy of upwards of $150,000 (based on the purchase of supplies, food, fuel, and services).

This leaves the cons and the source of some of the controversy surrounding the exercise. In addition to the anticipated increased footprint and possible noise complaints, the exercise planners have also acknowledged that observant residents may notice suspicious behavior on the part of some of the participants, which will be based on the various and complex operational environments that they may find themselves in overseas. Some of the participants will be wearing civilian clothing, driving civilian vehicles, and utilizing weapons loaded with blank ammunition. Local and national law enforcement have been briefed and notified, and in fact, the planners are hoping that locals will notice the odd behavior and report it, with the end goal being teaching points for future improvement.

But not everyone is buying the story that USASOC is putting out. Some believe that this exercise is just a front for the ‘Big ML’—martial law. One only has to Google the term ‘Jade Helm’ (not even including the words martial or law) to find that the top 10 results deal with the fears and concerns of preppers and conspiracy theorists who believe the true nature of JH15 will be revealed, and that the world as we know it will forever change—and not in a good way.

The theories run the gamut. Infowars asserts that some states are being targeted, and that “the Army has failed to specifically address why Texas, Utah, and a pocket of southern California were labeled as hostile territories in training documents for the exercise, merely insisting that the drill is designed to prepare troops for foreign occupations and has nothing to do with preparations for martial law.” The Common Sense Show believes the exercise is a false-flag for an attack on the U.S. banking system and an excuse for UN troops to operate on U.S. soil unbridled.

Within the scope of the RCRT document, the planners do (apparently not adequately enough for some) give accolades to the state of Texas, stating that “United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has conducted numerous exercises in Texas, because Texans are historically supportive of efforts to prepare our soldiers, airmen, Marines, and sailors to fight the enemies of the United States.”