No prank: On Halloween, US military forces train for zombie apocalypse

The scenario is part of a counterterrorism summit held this week. A zombie invasion would have characteristics similar to other catastrophic events and would be 'a federal incident,' a summit organizer says.

By , Staff writer

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    Members of the Kilgore Rangerettes dressed up in zombie costume wait to participate in a halftime show during a NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants Sunday, Oct. 28, in Arlington, Texas. The US military is preparing for a zombie apocalypse starting on Wednesday, aka Halloween.
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Why is the US military preparing for a zombie apocalypse?

That’s the latest training exercise that US Marines and Navy special-operations forces will be taking part in on an island off the coast of San Diego – starting on Wednesday, aka Halloween.

“This is a very real exercise. This is not some type of big costume party,” Brad Barker, president of the Halo Corp. security company, told the Associated Press

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This scenario is dire, modeled in part on a public-service campaign that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched last year, warning that US citizens should be prepared in the event of a zombie invasion.

It will play out Wednesday and Thursday at Halo’s annual Counter-Terrorism Summit security conference, which will be attended by, among other people, former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Hayden.

Zombies will invade Paradise Point Resort, which covers 44 acres on an island that will be transformed with Hollywood-style sets, including a Middle Eastern village and a pirate cove. Some 1,000 US military personnel, police, and state and federal government officials will be charged with responding.

“No doubt when a zombie apocalypse occurs, it’s going to be a federal incident, so we’re making it happen,” Mr. Barker told the AP. 

The training scenario has not come without its share of unwelcome attention, he noted, adding that “every whack job in the world” has called about the exercise.

Barker acknowledges that the “zombie apocalypse is very whimsical,” telling the Military Times that the scenario was created to “add some levity to the more-dire scenarios summitgoers will encounter,” including terrorists roaming hospital halls shooting people and pilots trapped behind enemy lines.

That said, an affinity for zombie television shows and movies could help provide a teachable moment not only for US troops, but also for the American public.

This is particularly true when it comes to the uncertainty that surrounds unexpected catastrophic events, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

“No one knows what the zombies will do in our scenario, but quite frankly, no one knows what a terrorist will do,” Barker told the AP. “If a law-enforcement officer sees a zombie and says, ‘Freeze, get your hands in the air!’ what’s a zombie going to do? He’s going to moan at you. If someone on PCP or some other psychotic drug is told that, the truth is he’s not going to react to you.”

When it launched its awareness campaign last year on a zombie apocalypse, the CDC used it as a chance to encourage Americans to be prepared for any unexpected emergency.

“We have a very small office and an equally small budget,” Maggie Silver, a CDC official, told ABC News. “So we had to do something that wasn’t going to take a lot of manpower or dollars.”

The CDC recommended doing things such as stocking up on water (one gallon per person per day), food (nonperishable items you eat regularly), tools like duct tape, a battery-powered radio, and blankets.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security released its own tongue-in-cheek webinar about zombie preparation as an “effective way of engaging new audiences,” as one FEMA official noted.

The CDC zombie campaign grew out of an effort “to spice up our general preparedness message,” added Ms. Silver. “We decided, why not give people what they want?”

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