State Rep. Rod Roberts of Carroll said he received calls, e-mails and questions about the Arcadia exercise but only one from a constituent.
Initial news of the drill "caught me off guard," he said.
"I was like 'What?'" Roberts said. "Then when I read that line about how they'd be using a Blackhawk helicopter, I said 'Please, that doesn't help.'"
Roberts took his concerns to fellow House member Jodi Tymeson, who's a brigadier general and deputy commander of the Iowa Guard.
"I said, 'Jodi, even at face value, I read this and bells go off. Maybe it's perfectly fine, but I've got to think the public relations division with the Guard needs to go back and find out how this needs to be handled in terms of public relations,'" Roberts said. "I also said, 'You've got to have an explanation for this because I think they've dropped the ball ... and it's putting the Guard in a bad light.'"
Arcadia Mayor Oran Kohorst said he'd gotten about a dozen calls from out of state - one caller promised to bring 5,500 "minutemen" from North Dakota to challenge the Guardsmen while a caller from California said he'd bring 50,000 protesters - but heard no opposition to the drill from any resident of Arcadia.
"We support the Guard," he said, noting that Guard officials explained their plans to the Arcadia City Council earlier this month and the council was in full favor.
The Guard did make one modification for Arcadia.
"We didn't want Arcadia to appear we're having fun with terrorists," Kohorst said, "so they came up with this suspected arms dealer thing.
"It started out to be an exercise. We just wanted to help the Guard to be ready if they have to go overseas. But it just kind of blew up. Nothing this serious has ever happened in Arcadia. We have our cat and dog problems and other small-town things, but nothing like this.
"I really feel sorry for the National Guard having to justify their actions."
Tony Vonnahme, who'd been asked to play the suspected arms dealer in the drill, said he didn't commit because he wanted more information. The Guard had planned to hold a town meeting Monday, March 2, to explain the exercise and ask for volunteers.
"To me it was totally innocent," said Vonnahme, who is a real-life gun dealer, owning Shooters Outlet in Arcadia. "But things got ugly real quick. I got calls from North Dakota, Washington, Illinois, Ohio ... It really had me concerned. My guts were torn up. I mean, I had people calling me telling me to evacuate the city. I was thinking 'This isn't even funny. This is wild.'"
Vonnahme said he's glad the Guard decided against practicing in Arcadia.
"It got blown way out of proportion," he said