The Texas State Guard does not plan to be in the field to monitor a multi-state military training exercise set to begin today.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had responded the most forcefully out of all the governors presiding over states where the training exercise, dubbed “Jade Helm 15,” was scheduled to take place by requesting that the State Guard monitor the exercise. He made the request in April, just a day after more than 200 concerned residents of Bastrop, Texas peppered a U.S. Army spokesman with questions about whether “Jade Helm 15” was really a cover for the implementation of martial law.
Abbott’s office said Tuesday that four to five members of the State Guard are expected to coordinate with a military liaison at Austin’s Camp Mabry, according to The San Antonio Express-News. The State Guard is expected to brief the governor’s office once a day, offering a review of the past 24 hours’ activity as well as a rundown of what’s scheduled to happen in the next 72 hours.
The State Guard is not expected to monitor “Jade Helm 15” in the field, however, according to the newspaper.
As the Washington Post has pointed out, state-sponsored militias like the Texas State Guard (as opposed to the Texas Army National Guard) cannot be activated for federal missions and are generally called upon in emergency situations or for ceremonial activities. State Guard volunteers train once a month without pay but do receive a free concealed handgun license and a daily stipend when activated for emergencies.
In his letter ordering the agency to monitor the exercise, Abbott called on the State Guard to ensure that Texans’ civil liberties were protected.
“It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” he wrote. “By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”
The U.S. Army also has declined to let media observe “Jade Helm 15” in the field. In the physical absence of the media and state military forces, a citizen surveillance group calling itself “Counter Jade Helm” has sprung up with plans to follow the training exercise on the ground.
“If a team member sees two Humvees full of soldiers driving through town, they’re going to follow them,” Eric Johnston, a Texas surveillance team leader, told The Houston Chronicle. “And they’re going to radio back their ultimate location.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.