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Air Force ​Chief of Staff David Goldfein delivers a Sept. 17, 2019, keynote address at AFA's 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

​What started as an online joke about storming Area 51 to see aliens has climbed to the highest levels of the Air Force—with the service’s top two officials receiving briefings and approving additional resources for the facility at Groom Lake in the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The Sept. 20 event, posted on Facebook as “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” eventually had more than 2 million vowing to attend before it was canceled.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, after laughing for a few moments at a reporter’s question, posed at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference Sept. 18, said the service is actually taking the event “very seriously.”

Goldfein has worked with USAF Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of US Northern Command, on how to protect the facility if any of the internet denizens actually show up.

For example, the service provided additional barriers and is coordinating with local law enforcement.

Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan said he was briefed about the event from the service’s operations, plans, and requirements division.

“Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected,” Goldfein said, though he neither confirmed nor denied the presence of aliens at the base, despite prodding from reporters.

However, he joked, he is looking for a very small airman to don an ET costume.