Incoming! False Missile Warning Rattles Air Force Crew

When reply-all goes wrong.
The warning, with emoji added in Facebook post.
The warning, with emoji added in Facebook post.
US Air Force

Feb. 14 was just a typical day for U.S. Air Force personnel working at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany — until all hell broke loose.

The workaday routine was shattered with a simple red message that popped up on the base’s computers: “MISSILE INBOUND. SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!” It was labeled “Severity: High,” the Air Force Times reported.

Turns out it was all a mistake.

The message was accidentally sent out to all computers on an emergency alert system for the 52nd Fighter Wing section of the NATO base. Someone was working on a design for the message and intended to send it to one person to check. But they sent it out widely by mistake, according to an official.

“One of the command post controllers was building a template for this specific thing that was posted, and he inadvertently sent it to everybody,” Major Byron McGarry told Stars and Stripes.

It took eight minutes before a new message appeared, telling personnel to “disregard” the missile alert. As someone who posted a screen shot of that message on Instagram said: “Uhhh.”

It wasn’t clear how many people were affected by the alert.

How did everyone react? Information is limited, though someone mentioned on Facebook that a buddy ripped his pants running. Some had the presence of mind to take screen shots of the messages. Those responsible for the blooper have been counseled, said McGarry, who called it a teaching opportunity.

Stars and Stripes

McGarry told the Air Force Times that no alarms or sirens sounded, so apparently the erroneous message didn’t trigger a full base response.

“Our command post has robust standard operating procedures that govern distribution of actual emergency messages to the wing,” McGarry said. New “checklist items” will be added to “mitigate accidental distribution of test messages in the future,” he added.

Lots of relieved, stunned, funny comments peppered the Facebook page of a former airman who’d added a shocked emoji to a screen shot of the initial warning.

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