What I'm about to share with you is not top secret.
But there were U.S. Army special operations soldiers lurking around Barstow, driving down our streets and we didn't even know it.
Back on July 14, U.S. Army sfc. Ryan Sabin, with the 10th Special Forces Group, held a briefing at City Hall. He described special exercises throughout the High Desert area.
Sabin explained that most of the operations would take place while area residents were sleeping. Residents would probably hear helicopters roaming above. Other exercises would include two or three soldiers blending in with people inside a restaurant to link up. But he said if people witnessed anything obvious, the soldiers were not doing their job right and wouldl need more training.
Well, it all came full circle last Wednesday night when the U.S. Army held a joint forcible entry operation training exercise at Fort Irwin National Training Center called Operation Dragon Spear.
It put the Army's finest weaponry on display during a land assault at sunset and an air assault in the early morning. Among the three-star and four-star generals, defense officials and Rep. Paul Cook were about a dozen media members.
I joined a photographer to represent the Desert Dispatch. The Riverside Press Enterprise sent a reporter and photographer as well. A reporter from Army News was a witness.
And Vice.com sent a large crew. On its website, Vice calls itself an ever-expanding nebula of immersive investigative journalism. Besides covering the exercise, Vice also streamed the event live on its website.
While waiting for the air assault to begin, everybody gathered inside a large tent in the middle of the training center. The Army set up various displays. There was a paratrooper with all his gear on to answer questions. Those in attendance could even try the gear on for size.
There were off-road vehicles on display and soldiers available to explain their uses. And there were plenty of MREs for those who had worked up an appetite while watching the land assault.
A public affairs official with Fort Irwin mentioned two special military vehicles were parked outside the tent.
"It's not what you expect," he said, which raised my curiosity just a bit. After all, I'd just seen Abram tanks fire laser strikes at targets, towed howitzers rumble and high mobility artillery rocket systems roar.
What could top that?
I was wrong. What was parked outside topped everything. It was just one of those weird moments where you left one world and entered another.
Parked outside were a Ryder rental truck full of furniture and a hay truck. As I stood there staring at them, the same public affairs officials pointed to the dryer inside the Ryder truck, its door wide open. I walked closer and looked inside the dryer. He pointed his lighted phone at the opening, revealing a large room.
The same for the hay truck. A small doorway led to large room inside.
When you think of the militarily using stealth, a hay truck is not what comes to mind. But according to the Green Beret who stood by the trucks, it was "mission accomplished."
He explained that special operations soldiers visited the Barstow area before the exercises to get the lay of land.
"I couldn't count how many hay trucks," the soldier said. "Everybody was either moving in or moving away. Nobody can suspect that (rental moving trucks)."
He said the special operation soldiers drove down Barstow streets. And as far as he knows, nobody suspected a thing.
"It was very successful," he said. "We did everything we wanted to do."
While this may sound off alarms among the "Jade Helm 15" conspiracy followers, the U.S. Army says it wants everybody in the world to know of its capability.
Gen. Joseph Votel, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, proudly reported that thousands of soldiers took part in the joint forcible entry exercise. Some came from as far away as 900 miles that night to parachute down onto the Fort Irwin airfield.
The experience impressed Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall. He told reporters and generals alike that very few organizations in the world could put together an exercise on the scale and quality of the one conducted at Fort Irwin.
"So all you reporters, it's important to the tell the American people — and believe me everybody will read your work outside the country — just what you saw today and the increased capabilities of the U.S. Army," Kendall said.
And with that, we all headed back to Chinook helicopters to make our way home. We could still hear the crackling of small arms fire outside the tent. We were reminded that the soldiers would continue the fight through the rest of the day.
And even us reporters have a duty. And write we will, but now we'll be just a little suspicious of rental moving trucks and hay trucks.
Mike Lamb can be reached 760-475-8337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter@mlambdispatch.