Active shooter exercise: unit trains with the experts

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Keith
  • 624th Regional Support Group Public Affairs
With a rise in active shooter incidents at military installations--two shootings at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009 and April 2014, and one in September 2013, at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.--first responder training continues to emphasize teaching potential victims what to do.

An example of this is when members of the 624th Regional Support Group recently practiced their response skills with a team of experts in an active shooter exercise held here September 9, during a unit training assembly (UTA).

Master Sgt. Jason Boquer-Wintjen, a fulltime police officer with the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) and non-commissioned officer-in-charge of readiness with the 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, spearheaded the planning and execution.

Because his Air Force Reserve job is in medical administration, Boquer-Wintjen asked a fellow HPD officer who serves in law enforcement with the Navy Reserve for advice on anti-terrorism measures on a military installation.

Master-at-Arms First Class Tony Ozoa, the lead petty officer with the Naval Security Force, Naval Intelligence Operations Center, Schoefield Barracks, Hawaii, not only offered to help stage the exercise, but called on fellow Navy reservists, Master-at-Arms Second Class Morgan Hill, Master-at-Arms Second Class Darrell Jones, and Master-at-Arms Second Class Antonio Bello to join the effort. All are police officers in their civilian and military jobs.

"Primarily it's about tactics and procedures," said Boquer-Wintjen. "The fundamentals are the same. Both civilian and military law enforcement will form a contact team of 4 to 5 officers to enter the room during an active shooter scenario. But room clearing techniques will vary depending on how the training was performed," he said.

The Navy reservists' antiterrorism training made for a smooth transition, Boquer-Wintjen said. He said that both civilian and military police wanted the same outcome--to neutralize the shooter. For him, it was a question of how to do it, he said.

The team set up the exercise to occur in two buildings housing two squadrons and group staff. Using yellow evidence tape, they roped off the training area. Ozoa acted as the shooter, concealing a mock 9 mm pistol as he entered each building. Members of the 624th RSG's Wing Inspection Team observed.

Ozoa's first target was the 48th Aerial Port Squadron commander's office where he drew his weapon and began to simulate taking casualties. Boquer-Wintjen used cell phone recordings of single fire and semi-automatic bursts projected through a "baby bullhorn" to simulate the sound of gunfire.

"People inside failed to battle at the door and he won the battle by being able to enter," said Boquer-Wintjen.

"The tendency, especially for those in an office environment, is to freeze," said Hill, an HPD officer.

Jones, also an HPD officer, said he wanted to see participants use more force when closing doors and take other defensive actions to shelter in place.

After they cleared the buildings and ended the exercise, the team met with key players in a conference room for a "hotwash."

Bello, a Department of Defense police officer, said it was crucial that personnel responded immediately when they heard the sound of gunshot. "Instead of stopping and saying, 'Wow, I think that's a gun,' workers need to get up and start moving," he said.

The team said that next time they would use a different method to accurately represent the sound of gunshot. "Real gunfire is going to project volume inside a structure and ring through closed windows and doors," said Boquer-Wintjen.

Maj. April Schroeder, acting inspector general who observed the exercise, said that overall the Airmen of the 624th RSG displayed a sense of urgency. "It was a good first effort," she said.

The Navy reservists said they would plan a joint exercise in the future, incorporating a mix of personnel to create a more realistic perspective of an active shooter scenario.

"Our approach is not 'if' it happens, but 'when' it happens," said Boquer-Wintjen.

Members of the 624th ASTS, 48th APS, 624th Civil Engineering Squadron, and the 624th RSG staff participated in the exercise.