CHAPMANVILLE, W.Va. — In the online world of Facebook, perception often trumps reality, and the truth can easily be obscured by fear, anger and bias.
On May 28, the West Virginia National Guard conducted a training exercise known as “Ridgerunner” in the Chapmanville area; however, the public were not informed of the maneuvers.
After the arrival of troops in the area, many Chapmanville residents posted frantic messages to Facebook detailing troops moving down streets firing guns and helicopters flying throughout the area occasionally shooting blanks.
The Logan Banner was able to speak with several people claiming to be eyewitnesses to the maneuvers who alleged troops arrived in the area of Chapmanville Regional High School using mostly civilian vehicles.
One witness claimed a helicopter hovered near their home for around half an hour and fired blanks at the mountainside.
While the purpose of the maneuvers is still unknown, it must be noted the West Virginia National Guard conducted exercises in Chapmanville Regional High School and later at the old 84 Lumber building at Peach Creek.
With schools often used in emergencies as shelters for displaced citizens and the old 84 Lumber building being converted into a food pantry and something of an emergency services hub, it can be deduced the national guard was conducting exercises that fall within their mandate to protect the homeland.
Following the event, recent winner of the democratic primary for West Virginia’s seventh senatorial district, Richard Ojeda pointed blame at the Logan County Commission alleging the body knew about the maneuvers and failed to inform the public.
One post from Ojeda stated, “Did our commissioners know? I bet you they did! If the leadership in this county doesn’t get their act together with their partnership with military forces then we have a recipe for disaster.”
Logan County Commissioner Danny Ellis responded with a post saying, “Early Sunday morning May 29, 2016 I was made aware of some type military maneuvering that took place in the town of Chapmanville. I was later informed that Richard Ojeda was once again trying to mislead the public by strongly implying that the Logan County Commission knew or had information concerning these maneuvers. Let me be perfectly clear in stating what I have to say, and that is that Richard Ojeda is a liar…”
Major General James Hoyer, with the West Virginia National Guard released the following statement regarding the incident. “On Saturday, May 28, our Ridgerunner Exercise was conducted in the Chapmanville Area. While coordination for the overall Ridgerunner Exercise was made, this specific portion of the exercise was not effectively coordinated with the county commission or other local officials. The West Virginia National Guard regret effective communication of this specific portion of the exercise was not properly coordinated. If we consider using the Logan County area for future exercises, the West Virginia National Guard requests the primary point of contact of the activities be the Logan County sheriff.”
After receiving Hoyer’s statement the Logan Banner reached out to Ellis and Ojeda for comment, and both men struck a conciliatory tone in their remarks.
Ojeda explained, “The best bet would be to accept responsibility and move on. I know that if I win in November, I will need to work with the county commission to bring in opportunities. We were all wrong because I should have picked up a phone and spoke to them first before posting, but Danny Ellis didn’t need to write a scathing email calling me a liar.”
Ellis commented, “We were not advised of the maneuvers at Chapmanville, and General Hoyer’s statement supports that. My statement should have been that Mr. Ojeda was misinformed, but what’s done is done and what was said was said. I know that if Mr. Ojeda wins and he will be representing me too. I want him to do good for Logan County. We are going to have to work together: that’s plain and simple. Perhaps he and I should start afresh and put this behind us. I would love to sit down with Mr. Ojeda and discuss what’s troubling him about the county commission. We may not agree, but I think we should talk about it.”
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]