Operation Jade Helm 15, the summer-long U.S. military training exercise in the Southwest that has stirred conspiracy theories of imminent martial law, kicked off Wednesday in Texas. The operation, involving 1,200 service members, including Special Forces from all four branches, Marine expeditionary forces and the 82nd Airborne Division, is being conducted largely on private property.

The overall exercise will take place across Texas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah and New Mexico. The conspiracy theories began emerging in March and burst out publicly at local gatherings of the Bastrop County Commissioners court, where U.S. officials were bombarded with questions about the true purpose of the operation. Fringe websites quickly suggested the operation was designed to lay the groundwork for martial law, a federal takeover of Texas — even the wholesale confiscation of guns. FULL REPORT