Thornton ‘T.D.’ Barnes, Area 51 veteran: Why the proposed September storming of Area 51 is a terrible idea


A crazy Facebook event page went viral this  the past week with more than 1 million users responding that they would go to the top-secret military installation, Area 51 on Sept. 20 at 3 a.m. with the purpose being: “let’s see them aliens.” As a military and Area 51 veteran, the news of this mad event leaves me baffled.

Merely naming the Facebook event, “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” speaks of incredibly irresponsible and naive thinking by a horde of “iPad Warriors” who don’t have a clue about the many consequences should they attempt to storm Area 51, or any other military installation for that matter. Rightfully so, the event has already prompted warnings from the U.S. military. Here’s why those signing up for this ridiculous boondoggle should consider staying home to play “Full Spectrum Warrior” on their Xbox.

Before I was assigned to projects at Area 51, I served in Korea as an Army Intelligence Specialist, attending over two years in the Army air defense surface to air missile and radar schools, and tracking hundreds of missile intercept missions over New Mexico and the western United States. Deploying with the first-ever Hawk missile combat battalion, I spent thousands of hours radar searching for hostile aircraft flying the skies over Europe.


Following my 10 and a half years of military service, I spent several years on a NASA High Range radar site in Nevada tracking the X-15, XB-70, lifting bodies that became the space shuttle, the lunar landing vehicle development for the Apollo moon landings, and a countless number of secret flights out of Area 51 located 65 miles away.

In 1968, I joined the Special Projects Team for the Central Intelligence Agency’s projects at Area 51 where I participated in tracking missions using almost every radar existing at the time, including those of the Soviet Union.

During all these years of radar tracking and working with astronauts, test, and military pilots, not once did I ever think that I’d seen, nor did I ever hear a pilot say that he or she had seen an alien spacecraft.

The Facebook warriors, thinking that they will find aliens at Area 51 are ludicrous — there is no basis for their thinking so whatsoever. They have no smoking gun.

First and foremost, what these people signed up for is not merely an act of trespass, it could well wind up being treated as terrorism. In fact, how do those participating know who is behind this plan? How do they even know that the organizers are not connected to ISIS or some other adversary or enemy using them to disrupt or penetrate the national security of the United States?

There is no question that this is a conspiracy, even if it is said to be tongue-in-cheek, to penetrate a highly classified government installation. Those conspiring to “storm” or overrun the Area 51 installation should be concerned about the legal aspects, the risk of being liable for the actions of their co-conspirators. What if someone is hurt during this unlawful activity? All the co-conspirators could well be held responsible for the actions of one.

All of the above aside, physically swarming Area 51 as in the movie “Independence Day,” is pure Hollywood. In the real world, Area 51 is a remote rectangular no-fly area measuring 23 by 25 miles inside the Nevada Test and Training Range, a military training area used by the United States Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base. The NTTR land area includes a “simulated Integrated Air Defense System,” several individual ranges with 1.200 targets, and four remote communication sites.

Area 51 also borders the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and the Nevada National Security Site, the location of 739 nuclear tests conducted by the United States Department of Energy. Consequently, the possibility of 1 million or more people storming Area 51 will require the participants to brave and survive trespass through an aerial gunnery and bombing range heavily utilized for electronic combat ranges, aircraft control and warning, and for Blue Flag, Green Flag, and Red Flag exercises. In doing so, they must traverse ordnance impact areas in addition to the Air Force’s live-fire activities.

The invasion participants will face other challenges as well. They must face the elements of a desert with wide valleys above 3,900 feet bordered by parallel mountain ranges with summits higher than 9,800 feet. The temperature in September can be expected to reach 100 °F. Thus, each person would need to carry at least one gallon of water for each day to survive. In the unlikely event that any of those storming the Area 51 restricted area survive the military activity and ground hazards and actually make it to Area 51, they can expect detection by all sorts of sensors and cameras.

The Nevada National Security Site joining the Area 51 rectangle is the training ground for Counter-Terrorism Operations, training America’s first responders. Therefore, a massive number of Air Force and Homeland Security forces will be waiting to halt them before entering its restricted area.


In addition to the highly trained and motivated defenders, the participants can expect K-9 units, armed helicopters, and similarly armed land vehicles. Nothing would probably please the Homeland Security trainers and trainees more than to test their skills on a band of video game warriors attempting to penetrate one of the most highly secured military installations in the world.

There are no and have never been aliens or extraterrestrial craft at Area 51, period!

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