Active shooter exercise catches Airmen off “Guard”

Master Sgt. Brandon Murray and Tech. Sgt. Al Daniels prepare to invade the 18th Comptroller Flight. (Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Lauren Penney)

Master Sgt. Brandon Murray and Tech. Sgt. Al Daniels prepare to invade the 184th Comptroller Flight. (Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Lauren Penney)

By Staff Sgt. Lauren Penney, 184th Public Affairs

The sound of gun shots rang out in Building 65, McConnell Air Force Base, during the morning hours on April 13.

POP! “You’re dead!”

POP! POP! “You’re dead!”

Airmen were startled at their work stations as two members of the 184th Security Forces Squadron invaded the area, stating that this was an active-shooter exercise.

One man had a practice rifle, moving quickly and aiming at people, stating they were dead if they didn’t have time to react. Another had a couple of two-by-four pieces of wood that he banged together, replicating the sound of a gun.

Airmen scrambled to get behind locked doors or behind desks if they weren’t already taken out.

“I thought it was a great experience and very well put together,” said Senior Airman Rachel Mercer, personalist, 184th Force Support Squadron.

The exercise was conducted with no notification to anyone but a few key personnel, none of whom belonged to the two units that were targeted—the 184th Force Support Squadron and the 184th Comptroller Flight.

“Since we didn’t know about it, it really got everyone’s heartrate going like it was the real deal,” said Mercer. “I think it opened a lot of the members eyes to what could possibly happen in that situation. It made everyone think exactly what they had time to do and how they were going to accomplish it to get out of harm’s way.”

Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Vogt, superintendent, 184th SFS, followed the “shooter” to gauge the preparedness of Airmen and see how they reacted.

“The wing antiterrorism office felt the wing needed to test our ability to act, respond and recover to a situation of this magnitude,” said Vogt. “Active-shooter events are happening at a rapid pace all over the nation and if we don’t prepare for something like that to happen here, we would be failing our fellow Airman of the 184th Intelligence Wing.”

Another part of the exercise was to give the 22nd Security Forces, the active-duty component of McConnell Air Force Base, practice in what they need to do in the event of an active shooter, such as how to assess the situation, which building entry point to use, where the shooter is located and how to detain him or her, and to help people to safety or provide first aid to the injured.

“An exercise like this demonstrates the need not only for enhanced preparation on the part of law enforcement and other first responders, but also for all Airmen to be engaged in discussions and training on decisions they’d have to make in an active-shooter event,” said Vogt.

Despite the abruptness and surprise of the exercise, the Airmen responded well, and followed the wing instructions to barricade, escape or, if necessary, fight.

“Many Airmen barricaded themselves in there office, while some tried to escape the area,” said Vogt. “This was a success on many levels because it allowed our Airmen to actually react to an event like this, while allowing our fellow active-duty first responders to participate in the response portion of the exercise.”

With the increased frequency of active-shooter incidents preparedness and awareness are essential to minimize casualties. Vogt suggests squadron antiterrorism representatives play a big role in readiness.

“Every squadron has antiterrorism representatives who should be, at a minimum, talking with their leadership about the importance of exercising scenarios like this with their own Airmen,” said Vogt.

Constantly being aware of surroundings and having a plan could be paramount in saving lives.

“I also think gaining control of the situation is a big game changer,” said Mercer. “I think if we were in a position to get control of the gun or the gunman we can save a lot more lives. I think that is part of ‘Service Before Self.’ You are trying to save your colleagues. No matter what the outcome, as long as they are safe.”

Vogt said. “The exercise took true total-force integration to another level. The Airmen of McConnell Air Force Base benefited from this exercise.”