No hoax: Strange lights over Battle Ground identified

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

Updated: March 28, 2013, 8:42 PM

 

Mystery solved!

After a few days of wild speculation, a group has come forward to explain the strange red lights seen over Battle Ground on Monday night — and no, it wasn’t a hoax.

The lights were almost certainly part of an Army training exercise by the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, said Tracy Bailey, a spokeswoman for the regiment.

The training also involves units from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment from Fort Campbell, Ky., and Air Force Special Operations Command from Hurlburt Field, Fla. It began on March 25 and will continue through April 5, Bailey said.

“Rangers are being tested on their combat skills in a simulated urban environment similar to those they may find during combat missions,” Bailey said.

The exercises, which extend to communities surrounding the Pierce County base, include the use of various aircraft.

“To make the exercise as realistic as possible, it will be conducted during the hours of darkness during which residents may hear increased air traffic,” Bailey said. “Rangers will use simulated munitions and small pyrotechnics, which may cause loud noises.”

The lights may have been caused by CV-22 Osprey aircraft, which are part of the training, she said.

Although the lights apparently were real, Tigran Nikoghosyan, creator of the Camera Hoax iPhone app, said his product can also create an illusion that is very similar and could very well have been used in a hoax. His application can make blue, red and white lights in the same pattern.

“I can say that in spite of the fact that we don’t encourage our users to trick news agencies with our product, we cannot guarantee that user-generated content will stay among their friends only,” Nikoghosyan said in an email to The Columbian.

Nicole Keller, the Battle Ground woman whose husband took the pictures, has insisted from the beginning that they are real.