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Active shooter training benefits from JBSA, AETC collaboration

By Capt. Kayshel Trudell | Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs | Nov. 21, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

In collaboration with the Air Education and Training Command, members from the 502nd Air Base Wing are transforming active shooter training at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Active shooter training outside of a security forces squadron typically involves briefings provided by defenders at unit commander’s calls.  Base exercises are usually narrowly focused on a single “play facility,” with limited participation.   

“Defenders exercise team movement, building approaches and formations, and practice training for events that include shooting victims and hostage situations,” said Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Fleming, 502nd Security Forces Group superintendent. “While this is vital training for defenders, everyone else on base needs the training to prepare for events within their individual work environments.”

The goal of the collaborative effort between Security Forces and AETC is to provide hands-on training to people and offer practical tips specific to their work centers. After receiving in-depth training by defenders, unit representatives create a localized plan and then train members of their organization with hands-on response actions to demonstrate understanding and ability to execute.

“We must start thinking about active shooter training differently,” said Col. Leonard Rose, AETC Security Forces chief. “It is our job as leaders to prepare everyone to react to a situation like this, not just the defenders and members who happen to participate in a base-wide exercise. Utilizing this localized training approach allows us to train 90 percent of people where they spend 90 percent of their time. It will prepare people to react within their work environment and provides teams an opportunity to rehearse each response option according to the layout of their specific work center.”

Another significant benefit of training in work centers is the flexibility to learn when convenient to the organization.

“This more-flexible exercise program provides options for commanders to ensure their personnel are ready outside of base-wide exercise schedules,” said Rose.

Rose added that past base-wide active shooter exercises have led to mistaken reports of real-world events. These smaller, localized training sessions reduce the potential of a false alarm.

“False reports during an exercise can have tragic and tactical consequences,” Rose said. “Previous false reports have come from areas of the base which were not the “play area” and initiated a full real-world response from Security Forces and local law enforcement with responding members expecting to see an armed adversary.”

Familiarizing oneself with the building, walking through the work center and understanding safety features and escape routes could result in saved lives during an active shooter incident. 

“If you have a plan to use a desk as a barricade, but you’ve never physically tried to move that desk, you haven’t prepared yourself to respond during a crisis,” Rose said. “You would not want to discover the desk is too heavy to move during a real-world situation. Physically attempting what you would do in a training environment allows shortfalls to be identified and new courses of action to be established and practiced.”

In addition to the 502nd ABW exercises, Rose and his team are currently conducting small scale exercises for every office space in AETC headquarters. They started with the AETC commander’s front office. 

“Everyone in our office staff learned something during this exercise,” said Chief Master Sgt. Erik Thompson, AETC’s command chief. “We learned what to do and corrected some assumptions so we’re prepared should we need to respond.”

“This unit training isn’t a replacement for training defenders, Air Force Office of Special Investigation agents and emergency operations center operators,” Rose said. “It allows individuals to receive the training necessary for their position. We want everyone to know their role and have an emergency plan that enables responses to become second nature.”

To learn more about active shooter training, visit https://www.beready.af.mil/Disasters-Emergencies/Man-Made-Incident/Active-Shooter/.