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380AEW Article

Active Shooter exercise keeps emergency response Airmen resilient and ready

  • Published
  • By TSgt Jeffrey Grossi
  • 380 AEW
Airmen assigned to seven 380th Air Expeditionary Wing units participated in an active shooter, explosive ordinance disposal exercise June 25, 2022, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The intent of the joint agency exercise was to evaluate emergency responders with no advance notice, in order to identify shortfalls in training, communication, or assets, so as to ensure the 380th AEW is ready for real-world situations.
“We’re already ahead of the curve,” said Tech. Sgt. Dale Janik, the explosive ordinance disposal flight chief assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and the lead planner of the exercise. “I included everyone that would actually be involved in this real world Emergency Response – explosive ordinance disposal, security forces, the Base Defense Operations Center, command post, Office of Special Investigations, fire (department), and medical for this iteration. I look to build a scenario that would incorporate all emergency responders and test them in ways that are outside of the normal training set.”
The exercise began an hour before simulated gun shots were fired. Airmen from the 380th Expeditionary Medical Squadron, like Master Sgt. April Gregory, the flight chief of medical operations, began applying prosthetic wound make up to volunteers acting as victims. Simulated wounds varied, in order to cover larger areas of emergency responder training, including: blunt force trauma to the head and legs; lacerations; and gun shots to the hand, head and torso. In addition, two improvised explosive devises were attached to two hostages, located in an upstairs room. These devices came in the form of a “dead man’s switch” – an explosive device connected to a switch that is designed to activate if the operator releases the switch through incapacitation or fatigue – and a pressure release device attached to a chair, forcing a hostage to remain in place.
“In an incident like this, Security Forces are the first responders to the scene,” said Tech. Sgt. Dustin C. Ellison, the inspections and training section chief, assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. “Essentially, they would set up 360-degree security on the location, while another SF team cleared the building. The objective is to go directly to the threat, but also, effectively clear and secure the building, if at all possible, in a quick and efficient manner. If casualties should be discovered, like they were here, then aid is postponed until the threat has been eliminated. The only time aid should be rendered is if another team is already eliminating the threat, or if a joint agency is assisting with mass casualties like fire or medical. We setup casualties for this and wanted to see how the response would take place. At the end of the day, in an active shooter situation, time is always a factor. Reaching that threat is the main priority and that will always be something to continuously train for.”
After shots were reported to the BDOC, Security Forces patrols were dispatched and were met by Wing Safety, who ensured all live fire ammunition and magazines were left at the door before permitting them to continue with the exercise.
“The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Safety was able to provide real world risk management and mitigation, while promoting safety assurance and education, in order to accomplish the exercise with zero incidents," said 1st Lt. Tucker Andis, the 380th AEW Chief of Safety. The 380th AEW Safety Team’s integration within exercise planning and execution will continue to provide expertise and assistance in order to uphold the 380th AEW’s positive reputation for completing safe and effective exercises.”
After all firearms were cleared and free of ammunition, one fireteam of four security forces personnel pushed into the building’s first room, clearing closets and dark corners, until discovering a simulated mass casualty scene, prompting calls to both fire department and medical emergency response personnel, who set up a triage station in a nearby building.
Having contained the two simulated active shooters in an upstairs room, Security Forces personnel were able to practice de-escalation and apprehension techniques on the perpetrators without further casualties. It was at this time that the SF fireteam confirmed the exercise had a bomb component as well.
As EOD arrived, four technicians worked in pairs to make safe the simulated explosive devices, keep the hostages calm and, eventually, evacuate them from the building, while two additional technicians remained outside in support.
Staff Sgt. Raul “Adrian” Ayala was one of the technicians to secure one of the two devices.
"We responded to a CAT-A incident," said Ayala.
Category A refers to an incident when there is imminent danger to life, which is typical in hostage situations. During Category A encounters, EOD technicians must put themselves in danger and in direct contact with an explosive device to ensure that everyone leaves safely.
“The type of device was a victim operated pressure plate," said Ayala. "We can’t share specifics on exactly how we render a device safe, but this type of training sharpens our skills as EOD techs, when it comes to those devices. We want to do as many as we can in a training environment so that if something similar is presented down range (real world), we already know what steps to take. We also get the opportunity to work alongside different agencies, especially fire (department), security forces and OSI.”
Ayala has been serving as an EOD tech for more than two years.
“For my guys specifically, I want to see how they operate when something is outside of what they would normally train on,” said Janik. “Overall, it’s extremely important to identify command and control, and tactical deficiencies prior to execution of real-world events. We train constantly at home for this type of thing. These events are specifically targeted at ADAB and how we can better posture the base for emergencies – specifically those not involving Emergency Management.”
When the exercise’s scene was declared safe from threats, and clear of casualties and captives, OSI was able to train as well. In a real-world active shooter event, OSI conducts a thorough, calculated investigation, including: crime scene preservation, processing and evidence collection; notification of the U.S. Embassy and other law enforcement partners; and interviews with witnesses, victims, and subjects at the scene.
During this initial phase, tactical questioning is used to ensure the safety of ADAB personnel and other first responders. Afterwards, they reconstruct the scene to determine the motive, and provide information and evidence to the appropriate judicial authority for prosecution.
“Our role during this training was to work jointly with our base partners, which is extremely important to us, as well as coordinate with the U.S. Embassy and other representatives,” said Special Agent Joshua Carethers, a senior enlisted leader assigned to OSI Detachment 246. “Moreover, it was to ensure we have the proper equipment to operate and to ensure we remain proficient in our craft.”
According to Carethers, crime scene processing is broken down into phases, which can take several hours, to days, to complete. During its first phase, the scene is documented so investigators can preserve evidence, to understand how it happened, where it happened and when it happened. In phase 2, special agents focus on time sensitive, evidence collection. Anything from blood and DNA, to footprints and fingerprints, is considered time sensitive. During the third phase of collection, all other forms of evidence, like weapons and gun casings, are collected.
“When it comes to crime scenes, we collect any piece of evidence that we believe has a value to our investigation,” said Carethers. “We conduct interviews, collect DNA, seize weapons, seize explosives making materials, seize bullet casings, collect clothing, etc. We collect everything!”
By the end of the exercise, Janik and Ellison estimated that nearly 70 total individuals participated directly in the exercise, while another 10-15 individuals participated indirectly as quality assurance, safety and tactical level players, all working to ensure operations moved smoothly and safely.
Andis said, “Janik led an outstanding exercise with safety as a top priority in all phases of planning and execution. He provided instrumental and crucial insight to control risk to the highest degree. Tech. Sgt. Janik leaned forward to emulate the most realistic exercise in order to produce the most accurate results, leading to priceless lessons learned.
The 380th AEW is committed to regularly conducting emergency response training to live up to its motto, “Always Mission Ready, Never Second Best.”