Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theories

The Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theories were based on the eponymous United States military training exercise which took place in multiple U.S. states in the summer of 2015. Jade Helm 15 was conducted over eight weeks, starting on July 15, 2015, and ending on September 15, 2015. The announcements of these training exercises raised concerns and led to speculative interpretations that were characterized by The New York Times as "travers[ing] the outer edges of political paranoia."[1]

Exercise details

The joint exercise in realistic military training (RMT) known as Jade Helm 15[2] was sponsored by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM)[3] and involved the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) with other U.S Armed Forces units in multiple states, including Texas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Utah. Its stated purpose was "to improve the Special Operations Forces' capability as part of the National Security Strategy."[3] It was coordinated and led from Eglin Air Force Base, an Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) base in northwest Florida.[4]

Approximately 1,200 troops were engaged over the course of the exercise.[4] They were "mainly Army Green Berets, but also a small group of Navy SEALS and Air Force special operations troops as well as conventional Army infantry,"[5] although the initial request to state officials from USSOCOM listed as participants elements of the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), Marine expeditionary units, the 82nd Airborne Division and "interagency partners."[3] Troops engaging in the exercise assumed the roles of either occupying or resistance forces.[6] Most locations were in sparsely populated arid regions near small towns. Some participants wore civilian attire and drove civilian vehicles.[7] Maps of the exercise included areas of the United States such as Colorado and California where no actual operations were planned.[8] The cities in Texas include Bastrop/Smithville, Big Spring, Caddo Lake, Caldwell, Christoval, College Station, Dell City, Eldorado, Goliad, Junction, Leakey, Menard, Mountain Home, San Angelo, San Antonio, and Victoria.[9]

United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM, or SOCOM) claimed "the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart" from previous training exercises[10] such as Derna Bridge or Robin Sage.[8] According to CNN, Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, at an information session for residents in Bastrop, Texas, said the realistic military training helps soldiers adapt to unfamiliar terrain. In Bastrop, 60 soldiers would take part, including the presence of two Humvee vehicles and a "water buffalo" water tank. Private land offered by residents would be used for the exercise, though he noted they would not be paid for the land or receive a tax break of any kind.[11] Lastoria also claimed $150,000 in revenue would be brought to the area because of food, fuel, and shopping.

The Jade Helm 15 military training exercise started July 15, 2015, and ended on September 15, 2015. USASOC stated this training took place in the states Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. Journalists were not allowed to embed in the operation, but the Texas State Guard and the civilian group Counter Jade Helm monitored the exercise.[12][13][14][15]


U.S. Army Special Operations Command map,[16][8] depicting the US military plans during the Jade Helm 15 exercise

The conspiracy theories seem to emanate from the map shown here from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, that divides the region into four colors, with two "hostile" states, two "permissive" states, two states leaning one way or the other, and California divided.[17]

According to the Hartford Courant's Jim Shea, the conspiracy theories about Jade Helm 15 included: a "psychological operation aimed at getting people used to seeing military forces on the streets" so they do not realize when an invasion actually takes place; an international operation aimed to seize people's guns; recently closed Walmarts used by the military to "stockpile supplies for Chinese troops who will be arriving to disarm Americans"; and a military plan to "round up political dissidents" and "remove key political figures" who may be against the imposition of martial law.[18] Other theories by right-wing bloggers and activists have described Jade Helm 15 as a "secret plot" to impose martial law, confiscate firearms, invade Texas, and institute "total population control."[19]

The conspiracy theories also included concern about the name of the exercise, with the jade in Jade Helm 15 possibly referring to China,[20][21] and JADE possibly an acronym for artificial intelligence developed by the U.S. military.[22] Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and Texan radio show host, said that helm is an acronym for "Homeland Eradication of Local Militants".[19]


The Austin American-Statesman newspaper noted that after plans and maps of the exercise were made public, there was an "explosion of outrage on social media after the release of the map, which labeled Texas, Utah and the southern tip of California as 'hostile.'"[23] There was also speculation that shuttered Walmart stores would be used for "guerrilla-warfare staging areas and FEMA processing camps",[24] though this theory was debunked by the website Snopes, which specializes in scrutinizing urban legends and Internet rumors.[25]

A survey of registered Republicans by Public Policy Polling in May 2015,[26] found that 32% thought that "the Government is trying to take over Texas", and that half of all Tea Party supporters are concerned with an imminent Texas invasion.[27]

Greg Capers, sheriff of San Jacinto County, published a letter in the Cleveland Advocate (of Cleveland, Texas), in response to numerous phone calls from citizens, in which he described "alternative news sources" that were spreading inaccurate information about the exercise, and encouraged citizens to "utilize legitimate mainstream news sources" for those interested in accurate information.[28]


On April 28, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation, declaring, "During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed."[23][29]

On May 2, 2015, Republican Presidential candidate and Texas senator Ted Cruz said he had "reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise." In comments to Bloomberg News at the South Carolina Republican Party's annual convention, he said:

We are assured it is a military training exercise. I have no reason to doubt those assurances, but I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don't trust what it is saying.[30][31]

On May 5, 2015, U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican from the 1st District of Texas, and Vice Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, voiced his concern in a statement, saying his "office has been inundated with calls referring to the Jade Helm 15 military exercise" with concerns that the U.S. Army is preparing for "modern-day martial law". He noted a political consideration, saying, "I was rather appalled that the hostile areas amazingly have a Republican majority, 'cling to their guns and religion,' and believe in the sanctity of the United States Constitution", and asserted that "the map of the exercise needs to change, the names on the map need to change, and the tone of the exercise needs to be completely revamped so the federal government is not intentionally practicing war against its own states."[31][32][33]

On May 7, 2015, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic Governor of Virginia, called Abbott's mobilizing of the Texas State Guard in response to the training exercise "one of the dumbest things I have ever heard".[34]

Michele Hickford, the editor-in-chief of Allen West's website, discussed the timing of the Obama administration's order to ban some military-grade equipment from local law enforcement agencies in the context of the Jade Helm 15 exercise, as a plan to "disarm" the police and implement a "Federalization" of the police.[35]

In a November 2015 GQ interview, President Obama described Jade Helm as the most entertaining conspiracy theory about himself.[36]


All News Pipeline[37] broke Jade Helm to the world on March 13, 2015, 5 days prior than conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones who began spreading the conspiracy theory on March 19, 2015, by saying on his radio program and on his website that the federal government was preparing to invade Texas.[38] "They're going to practice breaking into things and stuff. This is going to be hellish," Jones said. "Now this is just a cover for deploying the military on the streets... This is an invasion ... in preparation for the financial collapse and maybe even Obama not leaving office."[38]

On March 27, 2015, Jones and Paul Joseph Watson posted a piece on Jones' website that referenced Jade Helm with the headline, "Beyond Denial: Preparations for Martial Law in America."[39] On April 28, he warned about the "U.S. military positioning itself to take over the states and declare martial law,"[40] but on May 4 clarified his stance, blaming "mainstream media" for misinterpreting his comments, declaring, "Jade Helm 15 is NOT A Martial Law Takeover."[41] In a video posted that day, he responded to the question, "Is it true martial law is coming?" Jones said, "No, it's incremental. They're not going to take over this summer. Probably. We can never say completely. But that it's part of acclimating and conditioning."

In reaction to the sentiment that the military exercises might in fact be movement against American citizens, Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd wrote a column titled, "Abbott should counter, not cater to, Texans' crazy Jade Helm fears," noting that Abbott's "response to this nut-studded fruitcake of fear was unfortunate."[42] On April 29, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest addressed the concerns of critics in the regular press briefing, saying, "I have no idea what he's thinking," regarding Abbott's letter to the Texas Guard. "In no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted."[43][44]

On May 4, actor Chuck Norris voiced skepticism about Jade Helm exercises in his column for conservative website WorldNetDaily.[45][46] He supported Abbott in his letter to the Texas State Guard, and implied a link to Islamic terrorism, saying,

Whatever Jade Helm 15 actually is, I think it is more than coincidental that the FBI director just confessed in February that the presence of ISIS can be felt in all 50 states of the U.S. and that the Pentagon is suddenly running its biggest military training exercise with every branch of the military across seven Southwestern states.

Comedian Jon Stewart addressed the debate around the exercises in a segment on The Daily Show on May 4 called "Fear and Absent Danger", noting that previous military exercises while Republican Rick Perry was governor did not raise similar concerns.[47][48]


A survey by Public Policy Polling in May 2015, found that one-third of Republicans believed the conspiracy theory that the Jade Helm exercise is about "the government is trying to take over Texas", while another third had not made up their minds yet about it.[49]

Comet or asteroid impact

Some conspiracy theorists have connected the Jade Helm 15 military exercise with an apocalypse caused by a comet or asteroid striking the Earth.[50][51][52] The Jade Helm 15 military exercise had an ending date of September 15, 2015, which is the same month identified by some conspiracy theorists for the catastrophic impact of a comet or asteroid,[53][54][55] based in part on a statement made May 13, 2014 by the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that the world has "500 days to avoid climate chaos".[56] The conspiracy theorists claim that Jade Helm 15 is a dress rehearsal for the imposition of martial law[51][57] which would be implemented in the event of a catastrophe of this level of severity. However, the NASA Near Earth Object Program publishes the Sentry Risk Table, which is a list that identifies such threats, and the list does not include any object with a high Torino Scale number (a measure of the severity of the threat) for 2015.[58] Also, a NASA spokesperson said, "NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth".[55][51] But some conspiracy theorists claim that the object has been tracked for years,[59] the object name is known but its published coordinates and orbit information are incorrect, and the threat is not publicly listed because of the thought that panic that would ensue.[60]


  1. Manny Fernandez (May 6, 2015). "Conspiracy Theories Over Jade Helm Training Exercise Get Some Traction in Texas". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  2. Although as of January 2016 the military has not defined "Jade Helm 15" for the public, the acronym JADE stands for "Joint Assistant for Deployment and Execution," "a knowledge-based mixed-initiative system that supports force deployment planning and management. JADE uses case-based and generative planning methods to support the development of large-scale, complex deployment plans in minimal time." Joint Assistant for Development and Execution (JADE), Abstract, p. 1. Defense Technical Information Center. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 "Request to Conduct Realistic Military Training (RMT) Jade Helm 15". United States Army Special Operations Command. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
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  6. Fernandez, Manny (July 15, 2015). "As Jade Helm 15 Military Exercise Begins, Texans Keep Watch 'Just in Case'". The New York Times. Retrieved January 8, 2016. Local officials who have been briefed on the exercise say it is modeled after the French resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II. It calls for some military personnel to play the role of the occupiers and for others to work undetected as part of the resistance.
  7. Manny Fernandez (July 15, 2015). "As Jade Helm 15 Military Exercise Begins, Texans Keep Watch 'Just in Case'". The New York Times. Retrieved July 16, 2015. ...some Jade Helm 15 participants “may conduct suspicious activities” as part of their training and others “will be wearing civilian attire and driving civilian vehicles.
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