The US military is set to kick off a training exercise that has some conspiracy theorists looking over their shoulders amid fears of a federal government takeover.
The exercise dubbed Jade Helm 15 will include operators from the US Army Special Operations Command and other US armed forces units.
It is due to begin on Wednesday and will run for two months across seven states in the West and Southwest.
The Department of Defense has called the operation a “routine training exercise”, but its size and scope has sparked concern among a fringe group of anti-government citizens.
Takeover rumours have included a plot by the Obama administration to construct a labyrinth of tunnels under Walmart stores in the region to be used for surprise military attacks on civilians.
Conspiracy theorists claim that an orchestrated financial crisis will set the stage for martial law and a Barack Obama dictatorship once the military units are in place.
Walmart has denied any such tunnels are being built under its stores and the US military has steadfastly denied there is anything to be concerned about.
“The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas,” the Department of Defense said earlier this year.
“The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise.”
However, at an April town hall meeting in Bastrop, Texas, attendees asked a military spokesman if they planned on “detaining or rounding up any American citizens”.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott went a step further to alleviate any fears by announcing he would dispatch the state’s national guard to monitor the training operation.
An editorial in the Dallas Morning News called the move “cringeworthy”.
Meanwhile, concerned citizens have launched plans to conduct their own training exercises dubbed Counter Jade Helm.
A message on the group’s website says: “Citizens will participate in an unofficial fashion to practice counter insurgency, organizational and intelligence gathering and reporting skills.
“The objective is not to stop or countermand the military’s training, but to practice our own skills.”
The group is open to anyone.
Others are not buying into the predictions of doom, including many residents in Bastrop.
Pam Ferguson, the owner of a local antique shop, told Reuters: “We support our military, and they have to train somewhere.”
The owner of the town’s only gun shop also seemed unconcerned.
“I don’t think we are going to wake up next week and find tanks and roadblocks and martial law,” Troy Michalik said.
“But at the same time, that does not mean that we should not be diligent and vigilant and keep an eye about what is going on.”
By Sky News US Team