Malmstrom Air Force Base, a pivotal Air Force nuclear missile facility in central Montana, experienced a brief but intense lockdown on Thursday, following reports of an active shooter. The alert, which lasted approximately two hours, caused considerable concern and led to a shelter-in-place advisory for nearby schools. However, the situation concluded without any shots fired or injuries reported.

The confusion began when a suspicious individual on the base was mistakenly reported as an active shooter. This coincided with a scheduled active shooter response drill, complicating the response. Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes, a spokesperson for Malmstrom, explained that the base had initiated this drill when the false alarm was reported at a separate location on the base around 10:30 a.m.

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In response to what was perceived as a “suspected real world threat,” base officials quickly acted to ensure the safety of all personnel, directing individuals to avoid the area near the reported incident. The Great Falls Police Department also played a crucial role, offering security and support not only to the base but also to the surrounding community, including schools advised to shelter in place.

The lockdown was effectively lifted two hours later, with the base returning to FPCON Bravo, indicating a somewhat elevated security level but no immediate threat to the public. The base had informed its community about the scheduled drill earlier in the week, though specific timings were not disclosed. This lack of detailed scheduling, coupled with the coincidental timing of the false report, led to a heightened state of alert.

Military bases, including Malmstrom, regularly conduct security training exercises to prepare for potential threats. These drills are crucial for readiness but can also, as shown by past incidents like the 2017 lockdown at Travis Air Force Base, lead to confusion in the event of coinciding real-world alerts.

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Malmstrom Air Force Base is home to around 4,000 active duty military and civilian personnel. It plays a critical role in the operation and security of Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, spread across Montana’s vast landscapes. The base’s security protocols are stringent, involving armored vehicles, snipers, and regular drills to simulate security breaches and responses.