Fort Bragg in North Carolina conducted a cyber-attack military exercise last week that simulated how personnel would respond to an attack that paralyzed the base's power supply. Fort Bragg officials issued an apology late Thursday, after realizing the unannounced drill sparked fear on the post and created unusual conspiracy theories in the surrounding community, reported The Charlotte Observer.
Some conspiracy theories said it was a terrorist attack... or a secret Army research project involving electromagnetic pulse weapons.
The electricity at the world’s largest military base, home to 50,000 active duty personnel, was intentionally turned off by base officials around 10:30 PM Wednseday as part of an exercise "to identify shortcomings in our infrastructure, operations and security" in a rolling blackout.
"This exercise was not announced in order to replicate likely real-world reactions by everyone directly associated with the installation. In today’s world, cyber-attacks are very likely. This exercise is exactly what we needed to do to identify our vulnerabilities and work to improve our security and deployment posture," the fort's Facebook page explained.
By Thursday afternoon (just as the power was restored), the fort's Facebook page published a Dr. Evil meme that stated: "Don't Worry It's Just A.."MILITARY EXERCISE."" So within the 12-hour time period of no electricity, base officials neglected to brief base personnel or the surrounding community about the drill, which allowed conspiracy theories to run wild.
"Good afternoon all! We understand the exercise conducted caused concern for many within our community and surrounding areas...for that, we apologize. However...we had to identify ways to keep #FortBragg mission capable," said a statement posted late Thursday on the Fort Bragg Facebook page.
"Department of Defense requires military installations to conduct readiness exercises on an annual basis. The intent is to determine the readiness and resiliency of the installation in a real-world scenario. With that said, our objectives have been met and as many of you know, everything is back to normal."
Residents of the base wrote on Facebook that their power was out for six to twelve hours. Base officials said operations returned to 100% around 4 PM Thursday.
Among the oddest conspiracy theories that circulated on social media, someone thought a Stargate space portal was opened, causing it to drain the base's energy.
"So is it true the power outage was Fort Bragg attempting to dial the 2nd Stargate?" asked someone named Bet JL. "I’m not buying this whole it was a training exercise thing."
Others were angry, claiming base officials "endangered the people you are supposed to protect."
"Does DOD standards recommend killing power to civilian housing?" asked Andrew Diaz in the fort’s Facebook page. "How many people on CPAP machines could have suffocated because you targeted an area normally off limits for that very reason. How many carbon monoxide and fire detection systems were knocked offline?"
"What about all the spoiled food?" asked Breanna Lynn Copfer, who says her power was out for more than 10 hours. "Renters insurance is saying Fort Bragg is responsible for reimbursement since it was a planned outage? We literally bought groceries yesterday."
"I know (someone who) was hooked up to a CPAP and woke up gasping for air," wrote Ryan DeRocker. "He could have died because of the ignorance and poor planning with this exercise. You guys messed up big time."
For base officials to conduct an unannounced exercise and understand the potential blowback would be severe, suggests they're preparing for imminent threats.