BIG SPRING, TX (KWES) - A large-scale military exercise that spawned countless conspiracy theories and widespread fear of martial law kicked off Wednesday with little fanfare, escaping the notice of many in West Texas.
Jade Helm 15, a Special Operations mission to "practice core special warfare tasks," will take place across seven states for a total of eight weeks, according to United States Army representatives.
Special Operations Forces will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
"The size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart," Army Special Operations Command officials said in a statement. "The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas."
Local officials authorized troops to conduct training in Howard and Martin Counties. Texas will also host Jade Helm activity at Camp Bullis and Camp Swift, in addition to Bastrop, Burleson, Brazos, Edwards, Howard, Hudspeth, Kimble, Martin, Marion, Real, Schleicher and Tom Green Counties.
"The public can expect little disruption in their day-to-day activities since much of the exercise will be conducted in remote areas," Special Operations officials said in a statement released Monday. "The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is a slight increase in vehicle traffic and the limited use of military aircraft and its associated noise."
The majority of Big Spring and Stanton residents questioned by NewsWest 9 on Wednesday afternoon reported noticing "nothing out of the ordinary." However, one woman claimed seeing "nightly drills" at Webb Air Force Base for nearly two weeks.
"We hear [military personnel] every night doing their drills and sirens go off every day at the same time," said Big Spring resident Missy Puga. "They have... dummies laying on the ground... and they go marching by. We just want to know what's going on."
As questions continue mounting, civilian volunteers have banded together to form "Counter Jade Helm," a surveillance group led by Pete Lanteri.
"We're just going to be monitoring what they're doing on public land," said the former Marine. "We'll just be out in town with them and reporting anything we see out of the ordinary."