Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas State Guard — separate from the National Guard also under his control — to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15 to protect residents' safety as well as property and constitutional rights.
The military says it's just a training exercise, and many disregarded the connections to impending martial law made by some websites as a conspiracy theory.
The governor's office downplayed the move, saying it fell in line with the state guard's standard responsibility of acting as a liaison when federal military deploys in Texas for any reason.
"U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has assured Texas that each location selected for training exercises will pose no risk to residents or property and that they will coordinate with local residents via verbal and written communication," Abbott wrote in his letter to Maj. Gen. Gerald Betty, commander of the Texas State Guard.
Some websites paraded a PowerPoint presentation — marked unclassified — as evidence that Army Special Operations Command was training to suppress American rebels in a coming military coup or civil war.
Any use of private land, he said, has already been coordinated.
As for the Texas Guard monitoring, Army officers have been going to Texas towns, many of them rural, to explain the exercises. One video posted by the Austin American-Statesman shows a meeting in Bastrop, Texas. After a presentation by Lastoria, a resident asked local leaders to reverse their invitation to the military and generated applause, telling them: "I don't believe a single word that he just said."
Arizona, a conservative-leaning state, is labeled "uncertain, leaning friendly," while more liberal Southern California is "hostile." The governor of another "hostile" state, Utah, has said Jade Helm is a standard training exercise and that he's been assured inconveniences will be minimal.
Lastoria told residents that people are wanting the exercise to be something it's not.
The presentation says Texas was chosen as a hub because of a low population density, and military-friendly history. Abbott also stressed the state's history of military cooperation as well as his own patriotism and appreciation for the U.S. military in his letter.
State Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor said in a statement that the guard's role would be "to expedite the flow of information and facilitate communication between the Office of the Governor in order to alleviate any possible public concerns."
The upside, she said in a clarifying email, was in utilizing Betty and the guard he commands for the governor as Abbott's designated representative for the exercise.
"They understand military operations as well as what details of the exercise are important to communicate locally in Texas communities," MacGregor wrote of Betty and the guard.
No tangible links between the closures and the military have been established, and Lastoria said the Walmart closings had nothing to do with Jade Helm or any military operation.
The company cites plumbing repairs at the stores during the six-month closure.
. One in Midland, Texas, had 70 plumbing fixtures replaced a few years ago, with the store remaining open during repairs.
, and protests have marked some of the other closed locations.