Holloman’s best prepare for the worst

Senior Airman Suita B. Ika

Members from the 49th Security Forces Squadron advance toward the Mental Health Clinic Oct. 27 during a base-wide active shooter exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Veronica Stamps)

49th Wing Public Affairs

 HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE – In 1994, the hospital at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., was the scene of a gruesome shooting. Before the gunman was shot dead, he injured several people and claimed the lives of two U.S. Air Force psychiatrists, a dependant spouse, a hospital visitor and an unborn child.

Team Holloman conducted an active shooter exercise Oct. 27 to get up-to-speed on what to do if a similar scenario like the one at Fairchild were to occur here.

“For the exercise, we had an active duty member, who was being discharged from the Air Force, that wanted to take revenge on a mental health provider,” said Wayne Paddock, 49th Wing exercise evaluation team chief. “So he entered the Mental Health Facility with a hand-gun and proceeded to shoot whoever he could find in the building until he got to the person who was his intended target.”

Shortly after receiving the “shots fired” notification, the 49th Security Forces Squadron sent a response team to neutralize the simulated gunman.

“I was a little nervous even though it was an exercise,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edgar Reyes, 49th SFS first responder. “However we have to be the first ones in there. We had to put our nervousness to the side and go in. We rushed into the building, immediately to where the shooter was, and we stopped him.”

The purpose of this exercise was to raise Team Holloman’s awareness of what to do if an active shooter situation were to take place on the installation.

“The threat is out there,” Paddock said. “Not just from people inside the Air Force, but from people from outside the Air Force as well. If they could get on the installation with some type of weapon, they could start shooting our people. The important thing is we need to know as a base how to respond to a situation like that, and we need to make sure all of our people — active duty, civilians, everybody — understand what actions they should take.”

This training gives the base populace and the first responders something that can’t be replicated in a classroom.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Charles Collins, 49th Security Forces Squadron, kneels by a car in front of the Mental Health Clinic Oct. 27 during a base-wide active shooter exercise.

“It’s a hands-on training and the only way to make sure our people really understand the process is to go out to the field and do it,” he said. “This drives home what we’ve learned in briefings or classrooms and we get to apply that knowledge to make sure we really understand it. The more you do that, the more it becomes engrained in you and becomes an automatic reaction.”

This year’s active shooter exercise offered more benefits than last year’s, Paddock said.

“This exercise was a little bit more in-depth than the one last year,” he said. “This one was also more realistic because we just had one shooter that was in an area where something like that could occur — the Mental Health Clinic. I think this was a better exercise overall because of the scenario, what we trained people to do ahead of time, what we implemented during this exercise and overall better training for everybody across the board.”

One particular piece of training the exercise offered was used base-wide, not just by the medical or security forces first responders.

“We used [Force Protection Condition] Delta in last year’s exercise and I think the FPCON procedures were nowhere near as effective as what we did with the lockdown,” he said. “Now that everybody’s heard the ‘lockdown, lockdown, lockdown’ they know what’s expected of them, and the next time they hear it, they will take action immediately.”

One piece of training the 49th SFS received, helped out “tremendously,” said Reyes.

“Practice makes perfect,” he said. “We received active shooter training from the Roswell Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team who comes down here once a year, sometimes twice a year, to help us out with this scenario. It was a big time benefit for us and will help us in the long run.”

Besides all else, Paddock said Team Holloman has one major lesson to take from the exercise.

“Be prepared at a moment’s notice for something like this to happen because you never know when it could,” he said. “That’s what people need to take from this and keep in mind that if we have an emergency situation right now, they will know how to deal with it. It’s almost impossible to protect everybody, but I think what we did today gets us a lot closer to being able to protect the majority of the people here.”

For more information about Holloman and its personnel, please visit the Holloman website at www.holloman.af.mil; or visit the Holloman Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HollomanonFB.

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