News: 143d ESC, Orlando police exercise active shooter training
Story by Staff Sgt. Rauel Tirado
ORLANDO, Fla. – It was a beautiful sunny morning with clear-blue skies over Central Florida, as more than 100 Department of Defense civilians and military personnel were conducting business as usual at the 1st Lt. David R. Wilson Armed Forces Reserve Center, May 7.
All of sudden, the normal sounds of people talking and working was interrupted with an unusual loud boom, and the sounds of gunfire began bellowing in the halls.
In recent years, the country has experienced several devastating shooting events, which have no boundaries. We’ve seen these tragedies in our schools, public places and our military bases.
On this spring morning, these Army Reserve personnel were spared the realization of a true and tragic event, but instead part of an active shooter training exercise conducted by the 143d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Force Protection Team and the City of Orlando Police Department. This combined training event marked the first of its kind between the two organizations.
Military personnel and police officers worked closely together to make the event happen.
“We began planning the Active Shooter Training Exercise six months ago with City of Orlando Police Department,” said Capt. Kenneth Morgan, Force Protection Officer of 143d ESC. “The plan was to have active shooters inside the building with simulated gun fire. We wanted to make the event as real as possible for the police department and the personnel at the reserve center.”
OPD provided three police officers to portray as active shooters inside the reserve center. Once inside the building, shots were fired with several military personnel role played as casualties.
“There were a lot of moving parts this exercise with safety being the biggest issue,” said Morgan.
The force protection team inside the reserve center responded by alerting the police department, and announced throughout the facility to exercise the active shooter plan. Several members of the protection team would engage in gunfire with the assailants to mitigate the threat, while waiting for law enforcement to arrive.
Within a few minutes the police units were on the scene.
“Our goal was to help the military understand the police response and role in an active shooter event to their facility,” said Master Police Officer George Montgomery, training officer and special projects coordinated for the airport division. “We wanted the opportunity to show our respond time and the actions of the police department. Also, what to expect from the military and what they expected from us during an active shooter event.”
Over 40 OPD officers and trainers participated and responded to the exercise. With a stream of police vehicles ascending on the center, the officers gathered in teams to approach and entered the building. When inside, they were able to engage the active shooters in simulated gunfight with blank rounds and detain the suspects. The next process for the officers was the tedious task of evacuating and clearing the three-story office building filled with personnel.
Montgomery has coordinated and conducted active shooter exercises at the Orlando International Airport. This was the first time holding such an event with the military.
“An exercise like this has huge benefits for both the military and civilian police,” adds Montgomery. “For the military, it shows us what tools they bring to the table in case they are needed for resources. For our officers, it allowed them to understand what kind of facility they were responding to and what type of military units are inside building.”
Montgomery suggested a learning point for the officers was use of service members assets since they have training that is vital in a situation like this, such as basic first aid.
“On the military side, just because your home doesn’t mean its time to let your guard down,” said Montgomery. “Your just as safe as anybody in a Colorado movie theater, a shipyard, or a church, that has experienced an active shooter. As long as you keep the mindset that anything can happen anywhere, anytime, you can fall back on your training to help mitigate a solution faster.”
The day prior to the active shooter exercise, all personnel assigned to the reserve center were brought together in the auditorium to focus on the importance of the exercise and experience the chilling story of a survivor from the 2009 Fort Hood shooting that resulted 12 people killed and 31 wounded.
Sgt. 1st Class Joy Clark, a medic currently assigned 4224th U.S. Army Hospital in Des Moines, is a Fort Hood shooting survivor. She took the time to share her experience of that day.
On November 5, 2009, Clark spent the morning waiting in lines at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. After lunch, she was sitting in line with her headphones on. That’s when the shooting began.
“I was slumped over at the time listening to music, then it started. I sat up and remembered being pulled out of my chair by one of my officers,” recalled Clark.
Clark was shot in left foreman while trying to help a fallen Soldier, while the shooter was just a few feet away. Amidst the chaos, while wounded, she was able to drag a Soldier to safety.
Her experience was to serve as a reminder how real this event can be.
“Everyone should treat this exercise like it’s an actual life or death situation,” said Clark. “One of the biggest causes of injuries and life was that people panicked. Not so much of people running around in chaos, but more of not knowing what to do. People assumed it was an exercise at first. I assumed it was an exercise as well.”
For Clark, it became real for her, when people stop talking and started reacting.
“The worst thing you can do in a situation like this, is not do anything at all,” said Clark. “To be indecisive or freeze, only makes you a target.”
Clark pointed out the benefit of an active shooter training exercise allows those involved to break down what happened in an after actions review.
“If you did not like the initial reaction of what you did during the event. You can make a mental change in yourself the next time you react,” says Clark, “In training, you can go back and say would of, could of, should of. In a real life situation, you can’t.”
The OPD and force protection leaders will conduct a series of after action reviews. Plans for future exercises are the works, including taking the training exercise and implementing more events at reserve centers throughout the country.
“This is a continuous training process,” said Montgomery. “The necessity and importance of a relationship between local law enforcement and military units within our cities.”
The active shooter training exercise held that day, yielded several casualties, both civilian and military. One of three active shooters was killed and two others apprehended. All this was simulated. By the end of this spring day, the real results were lessons learned, more awareness of active shooter events, and most importantly everyone made it home from work safe that day.
For more information on coping with an active shooter, follow the link below to download an active shooter pocket guide and brochure. Also, available is a vignette and tips for commanders on suspicious activity reporting.