Senior leaders in Germany are being forced to take a reactive approach after an ‘incoming missile’ warning was sent to all wing personnel at Spangdahlem Air Base Tuesday.
The message was recalled in eight minutes, but not before a screenshot of the embarrassing message made its way to social media.
The message, which read, “MISSILE INBOUND. SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!” originated in the command post of the 52nd Fighter Wing, spokesman Maj. Bryon McGarry said in an article released by Stars & Stripes.
“One of the command post controllers was building a template for this specific thing that was posted,” McGarry told Stars & Stripes on Thursday. “And he inadvertently sent it to everybody,” when it was supposed to be sent to only one person as a test message.
The wayward message was delivered to wing personnel via its emergency alert system, which is typically used to deliver weather warnings, where network users are notified via an action icon on their computer’s desktop.
Although the message was sent out, other emergency notifications, such as giant voice or sirens were not activated. However, it did cause curiosity and concern within the wing.
McGarry said he found out about it while sitting at his desk. “We were, like everyone else, very curious about it,” he said of the wing public affairs staff. The command post confirmed it was inadvertent, he said.
He also said that eight minutes later, a message in blue was sent out informing airmen to disregard the incoming missile warning and that it was a test.
But an eight-minute retraction wasn’t fast enough to prevent the message from being captured and shared on social media for the world to see.
The photograph of the initial red missile warning — with a concerned-looking emoji added to the image — was posted by someone to the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, run by former airman Steven Mayne.
People poked fun at the mistake, with comments like, “Oh look, time to change my shorts,” and “Guess you could say it’s a love rocket,” the latter being a reference to Valentine’s Day, the day the incident happened.
The individuals involved in the error have been counseled McGarry said in the Stars & Stripes report, and checklists have been updated to avoid similar situations from happening in the future, he said.
“It probably could have been handled with relatively mild embarrassment at a lower level, but here we are,” McGarry said, referring to the public attention the incident received.
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