Arnold leads the way in active shooter response training

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This month, Aerospace Testing Alliance (ATA) police security forces/police hosted a three-day course to train Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) and area law enforcement officers in active shooter response tactics at the instructor level.

Two National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) instructors from Dayton, Ohio, taught the course with one day dedicated to classroom instruction at the University of Space Institute on base.

This was followed by one day each of practical "hands-on" training at Coffee County Middle School in Manchester and Clark Memorial School in Winchester respectively.

ATA Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Manager Buck Young, with backing from the center and encouragement from Air Force Materiel Command, initiated and coordinated the course to promote a proactive and consistent approach to active shooter threats.

Young said recent active shooting events had rekindled the need to provide quality active shooter response training to first responders and the base populace.

"At Fairchild Air Force Base in 1994, they had an incident with an Airman who was being discharged for psychiatric reasons," he continued. "He went to the base hospital and killed two psychiatrists and three other people, and wounded 23 others. And then at Johnson Space Flight Center, a little over a year ago - you had the same kind of thing occur."

Gregg Gaby, one of the NTOA instructors for the course, said one of their goals was to reach a broader spectrum of law enforcement agencies with the specialized training.

"The good thing about this class, it wasn't just people from the Air Force base who attended, but surrounding agencies were also involved," explained Gregg Gaby, one of the NTOA instructors. "There were even Nashville officers in this class.

This means they all will be trained in the same tactical procedures to put together an actual response - because if something like this happens, it's going to take more than one agency to handle it obviously. So, they are going to be trained to be on the same sheet of music when it happens."

Gaby said the first day was spent covering the history of active shooters and how the response training evolved from those experiences.

"The history of active shooters goes all the way back to the 1960s, believe it or not," he said. "We go back and talk about the Texas tower incident and talk about everything from that point on.

It wasn't until Columbine, until law enforcement across the U.S. kind of looked at this and said, 'Hey we're handing these situations wrong. We can't just wait on a perimeter and lock down a scene and wait for a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team to show up and handle it, people will die if we do.'"

Throughout the process of planning and executing the training, Young said he kept Master Sgt. Roger Zamudio, up to speed with the whole process.

"I'm the functional manager for headquarters, Air Force Materiel Command's security forces, particularly training in combat arms," Sergeant Zamudio explained.

"Buck told me the course was coming and right now AFMC sees a need to look into the active shooter response concept. So, they sent me here and hopefully I can bring something good back from this training to the (other) units."

Sergeant Zamudio's participation in the three-day active shooter response course also marked his first trip to Arnold AFB.

Rick Trull, ATA's chief of security forces for AEDC, said training, team work and individual readiness are critical components to provide law enforcement and the base populace as a whole with the necessary tools to prepare for any emergency.

"This training will prepare our officers to respond to and neutralize an active shooter situation with the mutual support of our local law enforcement brethren," he said. "The key to surviving an active shooter situation still rests with each individual on base."

Trull emphasized that law enforcement's response is fairly straightforward.

"We move directly to the shooter and neutralize the threat they pose," he said. "However, the response by each individual in the proximity of an active shooter situation is much more complicated. Survival will depend on quick thinking, prior planning, and the willpower to survive.

"Unfortunately in today's society, each of us on base must make a mental checklist and as a matter of routine, survey our work areas and other gathering places we frequent to find a 'safe place' or an area where we could barricade ourselves and protect ourselves should we be caught in an active shooter's path. I can't emphasize this enough - prior planning, immediate response to action and securing one's self in a safe place are the keys to surviving an active shooters rage."

Trull said in most cases an active shooter has prepared a plan and the police and the base populace must counter this situation with their own plan.

"Finally, just like the active shooter exercises and practices a plan, the police also exercise and practice their response, and all of us need to exercise and practice our own plan to move to your 'safe place,'" he continued. "Our local counterparts are actively preparing for an active shooter event while aggressively working to ensure nothing ever escalates to that point."

Twenty people, representing 10 law enforcement agencies, participated in the recently concluded active shooter response training. Young said mutual aid requests will invariably pull in officers from surrounding communities with small police departments as well as county and state agencies.

"We had guys from Manchester, Tullahoma and Winchester here as well as two from Nashville Metro, plus a guy from the National Guard," he said. "We had sheriff department officers from Coffee and Franklin counties as well as representatives from the Middle Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University police departments.

These guys all need to be on the same sheet of music and know what the other hand is doing. As long as you've got that you're in good shape."

Trull added, "The participation of the local departments was phenomenal. We couldn't have pulled this off without the assistance of the local law enforcement departments to secure two local schools for us to train and also the participation of all the local department leaders who allowed their officers to attend.

Coffee County Middle School and Clark Memorial School provided AEDC and the other law enforcement students with a realistic setting for this training and we're very appreciative to all those who made this possible."

In April, Young conducted a series of short presentations held in the main auditorium to bring the base populace up to speed on the appropriate way to deal with an active shooter incident on base.

Young said the next step is to ensure all of the center's security officers receive the
appropriate level of training.

The final step in this process, besides refresher training for the center's security forces, will be to develop computer based training aimed to keep the base populace current in their role.