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US defense forces no match for the unstoppable fiend known as Reply-All

As 13,000 officers managed their inboxes, a certain Chinese balloon floated across Montana …

Thirteen thousand members of the United States military were reportedly caught up in a Reply-All email storm in early February.

Khaki-hued news and recruitment site last week published an account of the email swarm penned by a serving member of the Army who was granted anonymity to avoid backlash from brass.

The report states that the Reply-All storm started when an Army captain replied to a message from a distribution list called "FA57 Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program". Tragically, the unnamed soldier hit Reply-All instead of just Reply.

Their response soon reached 13,000 inboxes belonging to Army captains, “some newly promoted majors, a single chief warrant officer, a Space Force captain, and a specialist”.

As is often the case, the storm grew in power as some recipients of the unwanted email also used Reply-All to relay their requests for the flood of emails to stop, while others used Reply-All with ironic intent – to both celebrate and complicate the mess. There are always a few, aren't there.

The anonymous author reports that the growing thread eventually spawned a 1,700-strong Teams group dedicated to discussing the incident and some of the amusing spinoffs it generated – such as mass Rickrolling attempts and a fake advance-fee scam.

All of which would be funny, were it not for three things.

For starters, the incident coincided with a Chinese spy balloon's journey across US airspace.

Second, it was quite clearly far from a wise use of military resources.

Finally, the author points out that at least some of the Reply-All storm was caused by Army members just not being very good at email.

"There are far too many technically illiterate captains who would benefit from learning how to use Microsoft Outlook (particularly how to set up sorting rules) instead of replying like boomers using new technology," the anonymous author opined.

The author also offered alternative theories for the Reply-All storm – among them a possible viral marketing campaign by the managers of the FA57 Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program.

The author concluded with the observation that "This event proves the point that if you put a bunch of soldiers or officers of the same rank in one room (including generals), they will revert to acting like privates within 15 minutes." ®

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