Montana Nuclear Base Lockdown Lifted After Suspicious Person Prompts Active Shooter Report

by Braxton Taylor

BILLINGS, Mont. — An Air Force nuclear missile base in central Montana was locked down by authorities for about two hours on Thursday after an active shooter report sowed confusion and prompted officials to issue a shelter-in-place advisory for nearby schools.

No shots were fired and nobody was injured at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, the base said as it lifted the lockdown in a statement posted to social media. A suspicious person on the base had been reported as an active shooter, officials said.

Malmstrom had just begun a scheduled training exercise — an active shooter response drill — when the report came in of a real active shooter at another location on base, said Malmstrom spokesperson Staff Sgt. Trevor Rhynes.

Base officials directed people to stay away from a building where they said the “suspected real world threat” was reported at about 10:30 a.m. The Great Falls Police Department said it was providing security and support in the area of the base and nearby schools due to “an incident that may be occurring” at Malmstrom.

An advisory to shelter in place was announced for schools in the surrounding community. Police recommended private schools and daycare also shelter in place.

The lockdown was lifted about two hours later.

The base community had been notified Tuesday that the active shooter response drill would take place Thursday, but a time was not publicized, a U.S. defense official said on the condition of anonymity to provide details that had not yet been made public.

Military bases routinely conduct security training exercises. In 2017, Travis Air Force Base in California was locked down for more than an hour in response to a mistaken report of a shooter during an emergency training exercise, officials said at the time.

Malmstrom has about 4,000 active duty military and civilian personnel. It’s one of three bases in the U.S. that operates and secures vast fields of Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The missiles — housed in silos scattered across Montana — are tightly guarded by security forces, including troops in armored vehicles and snipers guarding from helicopters and towers to protect each movement of a warhead. The base conducts regular drills where its forces enact a security breach and train on how to reestablish control of a breached facility.

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Hanson reported from Helena, Montana. Associated Press journalist Tara Copp contributed from Washington, D.C.

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