Fort Greely Missile Defense Base evacuated last week, but leaders won’t say why

People wearing military camo gear in a room around desks
49th Signal Battalion Soldiers in the Missile Defense Complex’s Fire Direction Center simulate how they’d respond to a missile attack on the United States during a media tour of the facility in 2018. Last week, the complex was evacuated and personnel were ordered to shelter in place. (KUAC File photo)

The Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely was evacuated last week and its personnel were ordered to take shelter. But military officials won’t say if those actions were taken because North Korea had test-launched a missile that day. And they’re not talking about whether any evacuations or shelter-in-place orders were given Monday, when North Korea launched another missile.

Maj. William Smith, a spokesperson for the unit that oversees the Missile Defense Complex said the facility was evacuated Jan. 4. And he said personnel with the 49th Missile Defense Battalion, which operates the base, were ordered to shelter in place for about 15 minutes. But Smith declined to respond to questions about whether those actions were taken in response to North Korea’s launch of a missile earlier that day, or whether it was just a training exercise. And he declined to talk on tape.

Smith released a statement Tuesday that said the evacuation and shelter-in-place orders are “infrequent,” but “do happen from time to time.” The statement adds, “Training for such activities is conducted on a regular basis.”

By coincidence, a missile-defense base training exercise was scheduled for the next day – last Wednesday. But the exercise that involved use of the base’s warning and launch notification system was postponed early that morning. And neither Smith nor Fort Greely spokesperson Angela Glass would say whether the postponement was related to the previous day’s evacuation and shelter-in-place.

Smith, who’s assigned to the Colorado-based 100th Missile Defense Brigade, also declined to say whether any evacuation or shelter in place were ordered again on Monday of this week, when North Korea launched another missile.

The two launches were the first that North Korea has conducted this year. And both splashed down into the Pacific Ocean. They were the first known launches the nation has conducted since October, when it reportedly tested a submarine-launched missile.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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