SMITHVILLE, Texas -- Homeowners in Bastrop County gathered Monday to express their opposition to special forces warfare training exercises in 17 cities across the southwestern United States, including Smithville.
Jade Helm 15 is a military training exercise involving 60 members to be held on private property volunteered by property owners, and the U.S. Army says residents will have little contact with the military. The exercise is described as an unconventional yet realistic Army training operation that would have special forces troops traversing six states across the southwest.
"All I want to makes sure is that our guys are trained for combat overseas. That is it," said Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, spokesperson for the Army. "For this and for the training tasks at hand, you need large rural area with access to towns as well, because we have to practice some of the logistics that go along with it."
Bastrop County residents are questioning the exercise after map for the training exercise shows parts of California and all of Utah and Texas as "hostile territories."
"The people of Bastrop do not want this," shouted one citizen Monday morning at a special Bastrop County Commissioners Court meeting.
"Whether (Lastoria is) being honest or not about what's going to happen, I guess we'll see," said Christy Callahan.
Despite asking questions for hours Monday morning into the afternoon, some don't believe the answers.
"I'm hoping that they will uninvite [sic] this military training," said Terry Wareham.
Despite the the public's concern, Lastoria said the training event won't be canceled, unless the United States goes to war and the military is needed elsewhere.
"You just are not going to satisfy people," said Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. "(The meeting) was not about changing anybody's mind. This was about sharing information."
The training operation is scheduled to take place from July 15 to Sept. 15.