“Lockdown, lockdown, lockdown!” One phrase that no student, faculty or parents ever want to hear. Fortunately, those words were followed by, “Exercise, exercise, exercise.”
Local Airmen, Edwards Emergency Management and numerous other local agencies participated in Desert Wind 18-03, an active shooter scenario exercise at Desert Junior-Senior High School on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 18.
The training scenario involved a single active shooter at the school during school hours. Within minutes of the call from the school, Senior Airman Rod Galvan, 412th Security Forces Squadron, and his team were on scene. With their M4 carbines drawn, the team swept through the area. The team cleared every unlocked room; checking each corner and covering each other’s backs. Once the area was secured, security forces proceeded to evacuate injured victims, portrayed by 412th SFS Airmen, and survivors to secure locations.
The team communicated back and forth, calling out hallways, blind corners, doors and other vital environmental factors. As a first responder to an active shooter incident, Galvan said training and trust in his team are paramount while navigating a scene with many unknowns.
“We showed up on scene, we pretty much fell back on our training to make entry and clear out the building,” Galvan said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better squad. We had a good squad; everybody knew what they were doing and on the same page. It was real smooth and flowed real nice. We all switched out from being point to rear security, it was seamless.”
Randall Wells, an exercise planner with 412th Test Wing Inspector General’s Office, explained that the security forces’ performance was only one facet that IG observers kept note of and evaluated.
“We’re looking for things such as communication and control. Did security forces clear rooms the right way? Did they get on scene and establish a perimeter? Did the incident commander stage at the right place? And did the incident commander take command of the scene?” Wells said.
Wells continued, “Was the hand-off between security forces and the incident commander seamless? Did the medical folks appropriately triage the victims? Did they transport them safely to the helicopter? We’re looking at things like that.”
For incidents such as an active duty scenario, Wells said training of everyone involved was important because it could save lives.
“It’s critical. I can’t understate how important it is that this kind of an operation runs smoothly. As we know, active shooters in this country are happening more frequently,” Wells said. “Schools are a soft target for active shooters, so I think it’s very important that we exercise this and that we include the school.”
For first responders, confidence in training plays a significant role in how incidents play out, Galvan said. He explained his team’s smooth performance stems from the confidence in the training security forces conducts throughout the year.
“I have real good confidence with my team so I felt pretty secure making entry, there was no doubt there,” Galvan said. “The most important thing for us is knowing everybody is trained the same and we all have a standard that we have met…So that way, we when do come in, there’s no hesitation; I can just press with my position and know that if I go down someone can take my spot as lead and vice versa.
“I think every time you do anything in life, it gets better once you know where you do have your flaws and you fix those so that next time, you don’t make the same mistakes,” Galvan said.
Confidence in base emergency operations is also important to the parents of school children said Kevin Cordes, Muroc Joint Unified School District superintendent.
“This is vital for us. We are trusted with people’s children every day and we take their safety of the utmost seriousness. So for us to hold a drill like this, with all the people that will ultimately be our first responders in a real-world situation, is extremely important,” Cordes said. “We were extremely satisfied with the support that we got from security forces, the IG’s office, CHP (California Highway Patrol). Everyone involved did an excellent job, it was outstanding.”
As the scenario continued to finish, security forces apprehended the suspect at the North Gate. The surviving victims were triaged, then rushed to the softball field and loaded onto awaiting helicopters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Additionally, crime scene investigators were on location taking pictures and writing notes of the crime scene and interviewing eyewitnesses.
Eventually, a voice came on through the school’s intercom system. “All clear, all clear, all clear.”