HURLBURT FIELD, FL – What is the best way to overcome the body’s natural response to a situation? For members of the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron and local law enforcement, it’s placing yourself and your team members in one of the most nerve-wrecking, high stress situations a law enforcement official could face–an active shooter–and rewriting how you react during the most realistic training as often as possible.
Members of the 1st SOSFS members conducted active shooter training alongside local law enforcement officials July 29, to prepare for any occasion where force entry procedures are used to enter a building and assess or eliminate a threat.
“Active shooter training is important because it is a threat in both military and local law enforcements, and it provides our Airmen a way to prepare for this type of deadly situation,” said Staff Sgt. Pharaoh Guice, 1st SOSFS unit training manager. “This also provides us a means to train with our local counterparts and streamline the training so we can work more cohesively should a situation arise.”
The training, which was conducted in an old building owned by the Fort Walton Beach Police Department, pit law enforcement teams of various sizes against multiple unknown threats armed with M-9s, M-16s and other weapons converted to fire simulated ammunition that marks targets with brightly colored dye.
“We don’t know what each day is going to bring us, and throwing these teams into an unknown situation like this teaches them to adapt and respond to any threat the world could throw at them,” said FWBPD Corporal Steve Hull, the active shooter course instructor. “We try to make the situation as realistic as possible for the participants so they will know what it feels like to go against this type of threat and know how to make their body overcome the situation.”
Each scenario began with the team entering the dimly lit facility, which resembled an office or school, with no information on what type of threat, if any, awaited them. Only by traversing through the mazelike structure and following visual and audio cues like gunshots, muzzle flashes, and shouts of the opposing forces and fleeing innocent civilians were the participants able to determine the correct response to each situation.
Though many scenarios ended in a shootout, not every occasion called for it. Many times the fire teams would encounter no-shoot situations, like an innocent civilian running down the hall towards them. The first instinct is to shoot and eliminate the possible threat, but the Airmen had to work to overwrite this initial impulse and correctly interpret the individual’s action’s.
“On paper this process of following the shouts and gunshots, clearing rooms, and assessing threats is easy enough, but even now during the training when you know that lives aren’t on the line, the amount of adrenaline pumping through our bodies and the anticipation of what’s around the next corner or door challenges our minds in the most primal way,” said Paul Burgess, 1st SOSFS unit training manager. “Being able to work through this adrenaline and use it to your advantage is what this training is about.”
For the past two years, the 1st SOSFS has worked in conjunction with the FWBPD to provide this important training to Airmen annually, giving them an experience that was not available on base as well as the ability to integrate with an organization that’s different from what they might be used to.
“Though our Airmen are trained in a similar fashion as local law enforcement, the experience of working with someone new is vital for the situations on base where we would be working side by side with them,” said Mr. Burgess. “We have to be able to trust them and they have to be able to trust us to know how to respond, and conducting this training side by side better prepares our Airmen for that situation.”
Recently the National Tactical Officers Association trained and certified more than 15 1st SOSFS members on the Active Shooter Course, certifying them to train, evaluate and educate security forces members during future base exercises and evaluations.
Training managers in the unit hope to implement quarterly training, which until now was available annually through the FWBPD, to security forces members for active shooter scenarios to better prepare them for this worst-case scenario.
“A police officers safety is not priority one, it’s the safety of the civilians and hostages, so it is vital to train our guys to be able to react to this type of high-stress environment and overcome the natural fear of facing an active shooter so they can save lives,” said Parker, 1st SOSFS unit training manager.