By Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez, 15th Wing Public Affairs
The scenario: A disgruntled ex-employee of the base exchange, with support from his active-duty wife, returns to the store after being let go and shoots his ex-coworkers. This is a nightmare scenario that could happen at any time. As real as an active shooter threat may be, the best way to protect against it is to be prepared for it, and that’s the mission of the joint exercise evaluation training team.
Recognizing this, they led coordination of an active shooter exercise at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Jan. 29.
Master Sgt. Robert Wooderson, non-commissioned officer in charge of the 647th Security Forces Squadron Standardization and Evaluations Team, led a team of evaluators, Navy police observers, actors playing the roles of shooters and casualties, and first responders from the Hickam and Pearl Harbor security and police forces.
Wooderson said the team learned a lot from the training exercise.
“The training went really well,” Wooderson said. “We were able to identify the areas in our training that we’re proficient in and areas that we need improvement. Our security forces defenders had a lot of hustle. We’re always taught to go in and do what needs to be done as fast and effectively as possible, and we did that well.”
Armed with training weapons, the two active shooters entered the exchange, simulated shooting four people, killing two of them and injuring two others.
Hickam security forces first responders were notified of the incident via the regional dispatch center, which then coordinates response efforts with the joint defense operations center. Minutes later, the first patrol cars arrived and began their plan of action. Once inside, responders including 647th Security Forces (647 SFS) and Navy police forces were able to secure the building, eliminate the hostile threats, and save the surviving casualties. The casualties were prepared with moulage makeup in order to simulate real-life injuries.
Senior Airman Tiffany Biela, 647th SFS, said it is important for training such as this to be as realistic as possible.
“As much realism as possible helps the training because it gives the players a real understanding of what they may encounter and feel if they had to respond to a real-world incident,” said Biela, one of the exercise active shooters.
“We need to conduct realistic training in order to be prepared for incidents in order to avoid confusion, injuries or mass casualties,” Wooderson said. “With our training now, we’re definitely taking care of a lot of those potential problems.”
Wooderson said this training exercise has another purpose for the joint base community.
“From an outside audience, they can see that we’re not only training within our own facilities, but we’re training in their common areas in order to be best prepared,” Wooderson said. “This also acts as a deterrent for anyone who would think of doing such a crime. They see us doing these exercises and our anti-terrorism measures, and they’ll think twice knowing we’re prepared,” he said.
Joint base security and police forces plan to conduct exercises like this more often in the future to keep training fresh in their mind and ensure they are always prepared to respond.
“Anybody who’s been here for a while knows that we’ve had a dividing line between base response forces,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Hurst, 647th SFS manager. “We’re all working toward being on the same page and we’re getting there; we did that today.”