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162nd Wing facilitates interagency training for active shooter exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Erich B. Smith
  • 162nd Wing Public Affairs
Active-shooter exercises are common within government facilities and military bases, and most of them seem to surround a single entity neutralizing a threat by force. Very seldom, however, do these training events involve an entire installation, along with government counterparts, like it did here at the 162nd Wing Nov. 17.

"One of the ideas behind the exercise was for all base Airmen to get into the mindset of a 'lockdown,'" said Senior Master Sgt. James Mulcahey, operations superintendent for security forces squadron for the wing.

Several agency participants converged on base for the full-scale exercise - code named Crown Talon 14-11 - including the Tucson Police Department and Pima County Regional SWAT teams, Tucson Airport Authority Police and Fire Department and the FBI. "It (the exercise) also created awareness as to what our security forces can expect when we have outside agencies on base," added Mulcahey.

From the avionics hangar to the dining facility, the exercise demanded the participation and attention of every Airmen and selected contractors at the wing; no base personnel were exempt, as a memo from Lt. Col. Erik Anton clearly stated, stressing the requirement that all personnel - with exception of the wing's recruiting office - will act as if the lockdown was a "real world" situation.

Emphasizing the spirit of the exercise, Anton, who serves as the wing's Air Force advisor and 56th Operations Group Commander, Detachment 1, posed the rhetorical question for all base members:  "When you hear the word 'lockdown,' what does that mean to you? You get under your desk, lock the door and stay quiet. Don't get in one area with other people in the building as you would do with a shelter-in-place drill."

The interagency cooperation demonstrated throughout the day showcased the use of what is commonly termed as a Rescue Task Force (RTF). Although this element's presence is not mandated at the federal level, it is fast becoming the norm when engaging active-shooter situations.

"Traditionally, medical personnel will not enter a scene until the whole area is secured," said John Ivanoff, Chief of Public Safety for the Tucson Airport Authority. "With the new concept involving RTF, we neutralize the threat, create a 'warm zone,' assess who firefighters and emergency medical services can treat and take away." 

He added the ultimate goal in providing this type of protection detail is to get victims treatment sooner than later, even when danger still may exist.

Though military installations and schools have experienced unthinkable tragedies involving active shooters recently, last year's incident involving the killing of a Transportation Security Administration agent at Los Angeles International Airport moved Ivanoff into action. He eventually contacted the security forces squadron at the wing, as well as airport-based law enforcement agencies, and took steps to initiate a collaborative training event to prepare for active shooters.

The scope of the exercise even attracted representatives from the busiest airports in the United States. Mark Spedale, patrol officer for the Chicago Police Department attached to O'Hare International Airport, praised wing security forces as "extremely disciplined."

"The military personnel here are very definitive in their actions," said Spedale. "Seeing how they operated really stuck out."