HomeNewsArticle Display

Security forces practice active shooter response

Senior Airman Steven Nunez storms through a warehouse door during an active shooter exercise at the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson Ariz. Nunez is from the Security Forces Squadron, whose members were being trained and evaluated in response to a simulated active shooter threat.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. David Neve)

Senior Airman Steven Nunez storms through a warehouse door during an active shooter exercise at the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson Ariz. Nunez is from the Security Forces Squadron, whose members were being trained and evaluated in response to a simulated active shooter threat. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. David Neve)

Senior Airman Samuel Alanis (left) and Staff Sgt. Brad Guzman seek out a simulated active shooter during an exercise at the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson Ariz. Both troops are from the Security Forces Squadron, whose members were being trained and evaluated in response to a simulated active shooter.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. David Neve)

Senior Airman Samuel Alanis (left) and Staff Sgt. Brad Guzman seek out a simulated active shooter during an exercise at the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson Ariz. Both troops are from the Security Forces Squadron, whose members were being trained and evaluated in response to a simulated active shooter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. David Neve)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The smell of gunpowder permeated the muggy air as bursts of gunfire and shouts of "help me!" echoed through the dark warehouse. Two trainees entered the building equipped with Kevlar, rifles, radios, and a supply of blank ammunition. They moved in unison, loudly communicating commands as they sought out the assailant who taunted them with intermittent rifle bursts and mocking comments.

Although the thrilling scene was like something from a movie, it was simply part of the 162nd Security Forces Squadron's annual active shooter training.

Recent events, like the Aurora, Colo., shooting last month, have caused the Air Force to place greater emphasis on service-wide active shooter training. An active shooter is defined by the Department of Homeland Security as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."

The training, held Aug. 4, was led by Master Sgt. James Mulcahey, unit training manager for the squadron.

"The most important thing for the trainees is for them to react and adapt to the confusion going on around them because it's not your typical response to an alarm or fight in progress," said Mulcahey.

Security forces has specific procedures and response tactics that are meticulously planned and carried out, said Mulcahey. With an active shooter, however, it's all about the threat, and every incident is different. In these situations, security forces personnel are trained to bypass everything going on around them to neutralize the threat and protect lives.

Several squadron members have attended Air Force active shooter courses throughout the country. Here they use this knowledge to create realistic and variable scenarios that keep trainees on their toes. This year's training involved two shooting suspects, a bystander and a CPR mannequin.

"They have to know how to use their weapons and work through the threats," said Mulcahey.

To create a more realistic training environment, the trainees are given an unknown supply of ammunition to practice weapon transition, swapping out their magazines, all while they search for the shooting suspects. The suspects move throughout the training facility using their weapons to create noise and chaos, and the trainees follow the threat and make decisions while under fire.

Airman 1st Class Kendrick Spears, a member of the Security Forces Squadron, has been with the unit nearly five years and has participated in active shooter training more than three times. Each exercise, he learns new things and works on fixing past mistakes.

"We're taught to keep going, keep pushing forward, to avoid getting tunnel vision and to communicate with our partner as much as possible," said Spears.

As part of their technical training, security forces students are trained to clear buildings and handle active shooter situations. The annual active shooter training reinforces that technical school teaches them new threat neutralization methods as Air Force training continues to evolve. Spears believes the training is good, beneficial and fun.

"It's the most fun thing I could ever do in security forces," he said.