OGDEN — A number of Ogden residents awoke in the early hours of Saturday to loud noises and helicopters, prompting many to question what was going on near 24th Street and Monroe Boulevard.
Though it was just a military exercise, the training seemed all too real to many.
On Wednesday, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell issued a lengthy statement in a Facebook post apologizing for the commotion and lack of information put out to the public. Caldwell apologized for “underestimating the full nature of the exercise and the impact the exercise would have on the residents,” according to the release.
The post explained that the city was contacted in July by a contracting company that organizes military training exercises called F3EA. The company was looking to conduct an Army Special Forces training in Utah and Idaho, and approached the city about using a site in Ogden, and they later settled on using the IGA Building as the training location.
F3EA reportedly told city officials that the training exercise would occur mostly in the IGA Building, would begin after sunset, and those living nearby would be notified 24 hours in advance with door-to-door visits and reverse 911 calls, the post says.
City officials believed F3EA’s plan to “minimizing the impact of the exercises on the community,” the post says.
After the contracting company assured the city that the exercise would be coordinated with police and include notice to nearby residents, “city staff concluded, although in hindsight incorrectly, that the military exercise could proceed in the same fashion as many other training exercises routinely conducted in Ogden City,” the release said
On Oct. 26, F3EA told the city the exercise would begin at 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2.
Hours before the exercise was set to begin, city staff and police sent out a message to residents using CodeRED, an emergency notification system that sends messages to those who sign up to use it.
The Ogden Police Department initially planned on putting a message on social media to give residents a heads up, but later decided against doing so after they “grew concerned about the need to control the scene,” the post said.
That Friday night, F3EA told OPD the exercise needed to be delayed, and the event began around 12:30 a.m. and lasted around 45 minutes.
The exercise was done by members of the U.S. Army Special Operations. The only role local police played was to secure the area and prevent community members from entering into the training area, according to OPD spokesman Lt. Mike Boone.
In the days following the drill, which included loud noises and multiple military helicopters, city officials were left to figure out what went wrong.
Officials determined they underestimated the “intensity” of the exercise and failed to communicate their concerns about how the drill impacted the community. They also acknowledged the “lack of enforcement” to the claims made by F3EA, the post said.
City staff believed that F3EA would be doing door-to-door notification to nearby homes, which they reportedly did not do. The city said the most critical issue with the exercise was the planned social media posts were not published by police and the CodeRed message “failed to reach the intended residents,” the post said.
The city ended by saying they believed the training could support the military’s readiness with a minimal impact to the community. However, they determined they underestimated the magnitude of the drill and the community impact.
“We take this failure very seriously and commit to continue to review the situation and implement improvements to the city’s public communication and interdepartmental coordination, particularly for drills, emergencies, and crisis situations,” the post said.
Brandon Garside, communications manager for the Ogden City Council, said this drill was unique and not a typical exercise by law enforcement. He added that the city has no immediate plans to organize another similar military exercise.
A call to the Army’s Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina regarding details of the drill itself was not returned as of Thursday afternoon.
The Ogden Police Department encouraged residents to sign up for the CodeRED notifications, in the event that the public should be notified in a case of emergency. Residents can sign up online by going to http://public.coderedweb.com/cne/en-US/11B885E194B7.