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'Unconventional' Warfare Exercises Conducted At Camp Bullis

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
With the aid of night vision goggles, four C-17 aircraft begin entering Camp Bullis but they are forced to scratch a paratrooper jump a few moments before it was to take place

The U.S. Army Special Forces Command allowed a closer look into an unconventional warfare exercise staged at Camp Bullis Tuesday night. The training is in conjunction with other exercises across the Southwest that some know as Jade Helm. Although a scheduled paratrooper jump did not happen due to safety issues, media outlets attending were given insight into the training.


Since July, U.S. Army Special Forces Command has been conducting what it calls “unconventional warfare exercises” across the southern United States. As part of that training, nearly 550 paratroopers were scheduled to drop into Camp Bullis Tuesday evening.


Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
These unidentified soldiers gave reporters insight into the weapons and gear they use in these training exercises. Their faces are not shown at the request of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

After entering the gates of Camp Bullis, we were taken to a room lined with weapons, communications devices, and medic supplies. The names of the soldiers involved are not being listed nor are their faces being shown for their safety, so we’ll refer to them by their title.


“Today you’ll be given a demonstration of our capabilities as it pertains to special warfare and also how we integrate out inter-operable and interdependent with conventional forces and inter-agency partners,” said the Special Operations Director.


In this scenario, the Special Forces team leader said the paratroopers, are supposed to meet a resistance group.


“Once we’ve conducted our training with the resistance force, there’s going to be a time at the end of 

Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
The hill where the media was allowed to set up was in a remote section of Camp Bullis.

special warfare operations that we have to link up with conventional forces, example tonight, with the 82nd [Airborne] to conduct link-up,” he added.


The actual training was being conducted in a remote area of Camp Bullis. It was a slow-moving 30 minute drive to the hill where the media was able to set up cameras and equipment.  It would be close to two hours before the C-17s carrying the paratroopers from North Carolina would arrive.


Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria gives an interview with an Odessa TV station. Lastoria is in Public Affairs, his name and face are allowed to be used.

In some circles, this training across the south has been referred to as Jade Helm. Lt. Col Mark Lastoria, director of public affairs for Special Ops Command, said, however that’s not the correct name.


“You put a name as an index point for certain things in the Department of Defense, in general the term has no meaning at all, this is a special warfare training that’s taking place out here. They [individuals not in the military] clung to that term for all the wrong reasons.”


He said ‘Jade Helm’ is the name of a funding site and not the name of the overall operation. Officials say the raining to respond to a potential international crisis and this eight-week training is to strengthen working relationships for future deployments. The paratroopers have never flown into Camp Bullis and that’s to force them to experience unfamiliar territory like a real combat situation.


Shortly after arriving to the hill, a slight delay in arrival was announced. It would be an additional hour before the planes would show up.


“They’re not going to exit an aircraft until 11 o'clock now, so things have backed up a little bit,” Lastoria said.


Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Aside from a bit of moonlight, night vision googles were required to see. The face of an operative was removed from this photo.

At about 10:00 p.m. there was a whitelight blackout and night vision goggles were needed to see into the distance. While we waited, a first sergeant, whose name is protected, gave details of what each paratrooper was doing before getting ready for the drop.


‘In about 20 minutes you’ll start seeing the in trail, so in a nut shell, the jump master is going to give them time warnings, so you’ll have 20 minutes which gets everybody up, getting them alert, waking them up, put your helmets on,” he said.  “And that gives the jump master team inside the aircraft time to go to the back of the aircraft, where they’re going to exit out of the doors and have these safeties that go all the way to the front of the aircraft, so when they get in the back and the command gets to stand up for 10 minutes and the safeties can watch these guys hook their safety lines to the static line cable.”


Just after 11:00 p.m., the C-17 aircraft came into view. Four small blinking red lights dotted the sky.  “You can see them blinking with your eye now,” said a public affairs officer.  They looked to be no more than two miles out but as the planes flew overhead and no one jumped out Lastoria said the jump was being scratched due to a safety issue.


That safety issue involved an anchor line in one plane and warning lights not coming on in another. Lastoria said no human life is worth a training scenario.


“Anybody within reason can make a safety call, whether it’s the lowest ranking private can bring a safety factor to the concern his chain of command and bring it up and it’s taken into consideration and done so seriously,” he said. “Nothing we do in training  is worth life, limb, or eye sight."


Similar special operations like this will be conducted through mid-September in the southern states from California to Florida.