Members of the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) A4/7 Directorate employed tactical defense skills to subdue an assailant during an active-shooter exercise at the 12th AF headquarters building here April 4.
Master Sgt. Paul Azevedo, who portrayed the perpetrator while wearing a red-man suit and carrying an M-9 “dummy” weapon, began sprinting around the headquarters building trying to gain access to personnel who were not following pre-briefed procedures.
Azevedo tried to force his way into many of the offices, but was unsuccessful. However, as a 12th AF (AFSOUTH) member of A4/7 he was able to punch-in the security code to the section’s secure door… providing him an “in.”
However, unbeknownst to him, his home-court advantage was about to come to an end.
Within seconds of forcing his way into the A4/7 office, Azevedo met his match in Lt. Col. Timothy Hess, 12th AF (AFSOUTH) A4/7, who came face-to-face with the active-shooter and decided to take action. Hess jumped on Azevedo’s back, wrapped his arms around his neck and positioned himself to use a rear choke-hold to gain the upper-hand.
Within seconds six additional members of the A4/7 staff began popping out from behind corners and from under desks to assist Hess in tackling the 5’11, 200-pound active-shooter.
Azevedo dropped to the ground and was laid out, flat on his back, in 5-seconds flat. Unbeknownst to the group, they had just tackled their teammate from across the hall.
“He forced his way through the door and I wasn’t going to get shot without putting up a fight,” said Hess.
A4/7’s response wasn’t just a product of dumb luck…it came as a result of weeks of practice and careful coordination amongst the team.
“A4/7’s extreme aggression to detain the intruder enabled them to quickly take the perpetrator to the ground, take his weapon and call 9-1-1,” said Master Sgt. Robert Danylchuk, 12th AF (AFSOUTH) Force Protection. “They were prepared to keep the active-shooter subdued until security forces arrived.”
12 AF (AFSOUTH) Force Protection members have been actively educating members of the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) organization on how to prepare for dangerous situations such as active-shooter incidents for more than a month.
“We’ve applied the crawl, walk, run method,” said Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Miranda, 12 AF (AFSOUTH) Force Protection Superintendent.
During the first-week of March, the Force Protection team (led by Master Sgt. Pablo Martinez) sent out active-shooter response information to the entire staff. They also visited multiple offices to ensure that everyone was aware of what steps to take, passing out information on how to respond when an active-shooter is in the vicinity.
During an active-shooter exercise in mid-March, Force Protection members sounded the warning alarm and went office-to-office asking personnel questions and observing behaviors to ensure that all members of the organization could effectively implement response procedures.
“12th Air Force did a great job during all of the active-shooter exercises,” said Miranda. “We’re prepared for a real-world threat.”
According to Force Protection office, active-shooters remain a viable threat to all personnel due to the simplicity of the attacks and the high-impact they achieve in a relatively short amount of time. Within the last five years, there have been at least 14 prominent high-casualty producing active-shooter incidents. Most of these incidents have occurred in locations where the shooter has been undeterred and unobstructed from carrying out their attacks. The incident locations have often been described as “soft targets,” with limited active security measures or armed personnel to provide protection for members of the public. More than half of active-shooter incidents are terminated in 12 minutes, which corresponds to the average initial police response time. In most instances, shooters have either taken their own lives, been shot by police, or surrendered when forced with a confrontation by law enforcement.