MARION CO, TX (KSLA) - Day 3 of 'Operation Jade Helm 15' is nearly over and there's still no sign of a military coup or declaration of martial law in the United States.
At first blush, that may sound a bit sarcastic or even like an outlandish statement. But the Special Ops military exercise, now underway in 7-states, worries a lot of people.
Marion County, Texas is one of a dozen counties in the Lone Star State taking part in Jade Helm. But you'd never know simply by walking down the sidewalks in downtown Jefferson, the county seat. It's a quiet, idyllic setting best known for its bed and breakfasts, haunted hotels, and other historic landmarks in far northeast Texas. It's the last place you might think of for military exercises. But we're told these are no ordinary exercises.
While Jefferson was all quiet on this first week of Jade Helm, a few people in other parts of Marion County have already reported sightings of military equipment and personnel. That included Rickey Leslie. We met him during the lunch rush inside Auntie Skinner's Riverboat Club restaurant in Jefferson.
Leslie told us, "My brother lives on Caddo (Lake). And he says he's been seeing some Army people around up there, traveling around on the back roads."
Several sources told us it's believed the half-dozen or so Special Operations soldiers involved in the Marion County portion of Jade Helm are on private property along the northwest portion of Caddo Lake.
So, we took the half-hour long drive east from Jefferson to Caddo Lake and came to the only good place to access the lake. It's actually in Uncertain, Texas in Harrison County, just south of Marion County.
We soon arrived at the Shady Glade Cafe and Marina along the lake's western shore and met "Mike." He, like so many others we met in this area, describes himself as a patriot who loves this country. He's just not too fond of some of those who run it, starting with the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Mike preferred not to reveal his last name to us, citing privacy concerns.
Mike didn't mind sharing his observations of military activity in the area, however. He recalled spotting military personnel come through 2 months ago.
"You know, they had their little patches on and everything. They went out on their boats and they were gone for a little while. Like I said, what I believe they were doing were just GPS pointing the lake."
Mike said they even stopped and ate at the cafe afterward. He remembers they didn't talk much and he didn't press them for answers.
The U.S. Army describes Operation Jade Helm 15 as 'unconventional warfare' training of 1,200 military special operators over 2 months in 7-states.
Locals have even heard that the exercise may be modeled after the Nazi occupation of France, with Texas described as a hostile territory on at least one training map.
That's the kind of scenario that feeds into all sorts of fears about the U.S. government. Jade Helm conspiracy theories run the gamut from a plan to confiscate guns to a full-blown prelude to martial law.
Mike has his own theories about Jade Helm. "You know, you got people worried about them coming in here getting in your personal life, taking your guns, you know, seeing what you got. I think it's all about seeing what you got."
Back at Auntie Skinner's restaurant in Jefferson, some questioned the Army's logic that there's really a need to train off military grounds. That Included Pervis Young who asked, "Out of all of our military bases and stuff, we don't have the grounds that they need to train them?"
Young and others say that wanting to know the answer to that question does not make them a crackpot or a conspiracy theorist. They just want to know why.
Meanwhile another local resident, Ricky Lawson, also wondered aloud, "Maybe the government's trying to just get a little more control of us."
It was a much different perspective inside the Marion County Courthouse just across the street. "They're not going to take over anything. They're helping us They're trying to train these people to go protect us," insisted Judge Lex Jones.
Jones told us he's sat in on some of the military briefings months ago. He fully supports Jade Helm. And that's despite hearing what he calls some crazy rumors like, "Trains with handcuffs in 'em; ridiculous stuff."
But Judge Jones posed to us a more practical - and to some what might be seen as a more chilling - question. "If they come here to do something what are you going to do about it? I mean, it's ridiculous to try to think that you're, one of us is going to do something about the Pentagon saying something, coming in here and taking over. I mean, that's ridiculous."
We eventually tracked down Marion County Sheriff David McKnight for this report on Jade Helm. He too had decided to have lunch at Auntie Skinner's restaurant on the day of our visit to Jefferson. But Sheriff McKnight has decided he's done talking about this military exercise. His only statement: "no comment."