By: Julia Deng
BIG SPRING - A large-scale military exercise set to run from July 15 to November 15 has sparked rampant conspiracy theories involving everything from Walmart to martial law.
The Special Operations mission, called Jade Helm 15, is just another training opportunity to "practice core special warfare tasks," according to United States Army representatives.
"The size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart," said Army Special Operations Command officials. "To stay ahead of environment challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states... The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas."
Special Operations Forces will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
According to Jade Helm operations planners, training will only be conducted on private and public land with the permission of landowners or regional authorities.
"In essence, all exercise activity will be taking place on pre-coordinated public and private lands," stated an Army Special Operations Command press release.
Those "pre-coordinated lands" include the City of Big Spring.
After an Army presentation last month during a Big Spring City Council meeting, city officials granted Army Special Operations Command permission to train within city boundaries.
"Is it going to affect the community?" said Councilman Bobby McDonald. "Well, of course it will affect the community because they will be here. There should be no disruption. The community will be aware sometimes that they're here, and sometimes the community won't be aware. Sometimes they will be in uniform, and sometimes they will not be in uniform."
Jade Helm operations planner Thomas Meade said during the meeting that all troops involved "will be wearing an arm band with a marking that identifies them as part of the exercise."
He said local residents "participating or role playing in the exercise" would also have distinct markings.
"If they have a legal reason to be here, it doesn't bother me," Marck Schafer told NewsWest 9. "But if somebody comes through my backyard, I want to know [about it beforehand]."
Big Spring resident Jacob Martin said city officials had done a "poor job" of informing people about the exercise. However, he does not mind the military presence and believes it will stimulate economic growth.
"You're going to have thousands of troops here buying groceries, and the military's going to be buying fuel in the area," he said.
Army Special Operations Command representatives could not confirm if Jade Helm personnel will purchase supplies locally.
Officials also could not share how many troops will be sent to the area, when they are scheduled to arrive and whether or not any are already stationed in Big Spring.
"I saw a train carrying all sorts of military equipment heading into Big Spring," another resident, who requested to remain anonymous, told NewsWest 9. "There were also about 14 helicopters flying over the [Big Spring McMahon-Wrinkle] Airport last night and a tank getting driven through that open field [near the airport]. It's scary seeing that and not knowing what in the world is going on."