Fort Bragg officials issued an apology late Thursday, after realizing shutting off power to tens of thousands of post residents created alarm on the post and generated some rather bizarre conspiracy theories in the surrounding community.
This includes suggestions it was a terrorist attack... or a secret Army experiment that shorted out the power grid for miles.
The electricity at the world’s largest military post was shut off without warning late Wednesday as part of an exercise to see how post residents would react to a cyber attack, Army officials later explained on Facebook.
“We understand the exercise conducted caused concern for many within our community and surrounding areas... For that, we apologize,” said a statement posted late Thursday on the Fort Bragg Facebook page.
“However, we had to identify ways to keep #FortBragg mission capable,” the post said. “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.”
The apology was accompanied by a photo of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers spy movies.
Fort Bragg is spread across 163,000 acres and is home to more than 52,000 active duty service personnel, the Army says.
Post officials shut off the electricity for the entire post overnight Wednesday, including military facilities, businesses and homes.
The tens of thousands of people who live in barracks and post housing were given no warning so the Army could “replicate likely real-world reactions by everyone directly associated with the installation,” said post officials.
Residents of the post reported on Facebook that their power was out from four to 12 hours. Post officials said operations returned to normal around 4 p.m. Thursday.
Reaction to the surprise blackout ranged from ardent support to complaints the outage caused refrigerated foods to spoil in thousands of homes.
Among the conspiracy theories was a suggestion that the post had tried to open a Stargate space portal, a reference to the popular science fiction movie and TV series about space traveling scientists.
“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 reacted more angrily, claiming post 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.”