Operation Counter Jade Helm: Are Rogue Militants Preparing for War on American Soil?
n the third day of Operation Jade Helm 15 — the Special Forces training drill this summer that scared the hell out of nearly half of Texas — an ex-Marine named Pete Lanteri was leaning against a pickup truck at a Citgo station in the tiny town of Bastrop, scoping out an airplane high above the Camp Swift military base. Lanteri was having a bad couple of weeks. The night before, he drove 16 hours from his home outside Phoenix and spent the morning passed out in his Hummer. Five days earlier, he had taken down his Facebook page after it was viciously attacked by angry liberals. The week before that, his dog had died.
Now, however, as he watched the plane turn circles overhead, none of it seemed to matter. He had finally embarked on the personal project that had brought him to Bastrop to begin with: Operation Counter Jade Helm, his plan to monitor the real Jade Helm with civilian volunteers. With him at his observation post were a few key members of CJH’s Texas chapter: Eric Johnston, a retired sheriff’s deputy with a pistol on his hip; Larry Fortney, a sunburned home-improvement guy from the Fort Worth metro area; and Fortney’s wife, Mary Pat, who told me as we wilted in the heat of mid-July that she had signed up with Lanteri not because she feared, as many Texans did, that the Jade Helm troops were going to invade the Lone Star State, but rather because of some deeply felt beliefs about her freedoms as a citizen and how they might be threatened by the New World Order.
The team had come together just two hours earlier at a rendezvous near Bastrop’s biggest landmark, the local county courthouse on Pecan Street. Johnston, who had recently quit drinking, but still held a job doing “clean-up” at a tavern, arrived from work in his pickup truck. After a quick greeting, he and Lanteri squatted on the sidewalk to study a map of Texas. Lanteri had received a piece of “intel” about a convoy of vehicles, five hours out of town, moving near a place called Caddo Lake. He reasoned that the troops had been inserted at the lake by parachute or boat drop and were perhaps traveling toward Bastrop with a crew of friendly ranchers. Though there wasn’t much in the way of actual fact to back this theory up, Lanteri conjectured that the Jade Helm soldiers were headed toward Camp Swift.
So when the Fortneys got to the courthouse — Mary Pat in a tank top, Larry in a Harley shirt — everyone drove off toward the base. After briefly getting lost, they eventually reached the Citgo station and arranged themselves in its parking lot, across a highway from Camp Swift. Motorists came and went, unhooking gas pumps and buying little sundries, but the base was deathly silent: a muted space of military monuments and seemingly vacant Quonset huts. For the better part of an hour, nothing happened; cars whizzed by on Highway 95, a windsock rippled, the Texas sun beat down. And that’s when the airplane suddenly appeared.