HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.: Holloman Air Force Base members tested their preparedness during a simulated active gunman situation March 11 at the Domenici Fitness and Sports Center here.
As 49th Security Forces Squadron patrolmen cleared the building in search of the suspects, a quick reaction force stood up and was en route to assist their fellow defenders, who had already taken down one of two simulated gunmen.
An installation control center and emergency operations center stood up to maintain command and control of the situation and the base security level was elevated to one of its highest conditions.
“The whole time it was exhilarating,” said Airman Pedro Escobar, a member of the four-man 49th SFS team who initially responded to the exercise inject. “We tried clearing out every room as quickly as possible, tried to limit the number of casualties and tried to assess the situation as quickly as possible so we could get everybody out safely.”
The situation was part of an antiterrorism exercise, Coronet Gold Rush 10-02, designed to test base members’ abilities to deal with an active shooter scenario on the installation. The 49th Fighter Wing Plans and Inspection Office staff coordinated the exercise and evaluated how well base Airmen are prepared to handle a situation like this.
“You can’t guard against that type of scenario from happening completely,” said Wayne Paddock, the 49th FW/XP exercise evaluation team chief. “The idea is how fast can you stop it and protect the public, and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
After observing the 49th SFS members perform in the exercise, one EET member said the first responders exceeded his expectations.
“Today’s exercise was basically (to show the 49th SFS) how to go ahead … and handle that situation,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Muldoon, a 49th SFS EET member. “For us, it’s something that’s new. For law enforcement nationwide, it’s something that’s only come about in the last few years as a major problem. Today was better than I thought it would be. This was actually our first time pulling a major exercise of this type.”
And the 49th SFS were not the only ones called upon to put their skills to use. A piece of the overall inject called for a 1,000-foot cordon around the fitness center when the defenders noticed a simulated explosive device in the back of a truck parked, seemingly innocent, in front of the facility.
“If you get completely focused on just the shooters themselves and you lose your situational awareness, it’s very easy to overlook something like that, and in the end, the shooters get you,” Mr. Paddock said about the booby-trapped vehicle.
While the security forces team removed the casualties from the fitness center, the 49th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal team was called to assess and neutralize the device, and did so with the use of an ANDROS F6A robot from a safe distance away.
“Our team did an outstanding job,” said David Hollinsworth, the EOD training manager. “They prevented unnecessary loss of life and property damage, all remotely and safely. These exercises are good for everyone, it gets the base operating as a team.”
Although this was the first exercise of its kind and caliber at Holloman, Mr. Paddock said it will not be the last.
“The (Department of Defense) and the government are very concerned about the preparedness to deal with these types of situations,” Mr. Paddock said. “Even if it isn’t a full basewide exercise, I expect we’ll probably go out a couple more times this year and exercise our preparedness.”