So there I was, in a shouting match with one of my Sailors about his latest evaluation. Suddenly, he pulled out a gun and shot me. Twice. As I fell to the ground and slowly bled out, I watched him proceed to walk through our office and shoot other Sailors.
Except it wasn’t real. It was our first active shooter drill.
The news tends to sensationalize active shooters, like it devolves into some sort of action video game. Nothing could be further from the truth. After the drill, my team watched our security camera footage to see what really happened. We also had someone following the shooter around and take notes.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the difficulty realizing you were in an active shooter situation before it was too late. The shooter has ALL the advantages. Even though we used a cap gun that simulated the sound and smell of a 9mm pistol, the sound doesn’t always carry down a hallway. Plenty of people heard popping, but only a few realized it was a shooter. By the time they realized it, the shooter was pointing a gun at them at close range.
The Department of Defense provides active shooter training. Once you realize there is an active shooter, if you can’t escape your goal is to barricade yourself into a room, lock the door and stay quiet. That works surprisingly well. Our shooter, intent on finding easy victims, got bored banging on doors that wouldn’t open. It also delayed him, giving base security more time to respond.
Stopping the shooter because you’re Superman? Unlikely, at least in the initial moments. The shooter already has the aspect of surprise. Unless you catch him reloading, he can kill you in a fraction of a second. Watching our surveillance footage, any Sailor that came within arms reach of the shooter was shot before he could react. When I go back and read other people’s accounts of active shooters, the ones that tackled the shooter typically did so while the shooter was reloading, or it was after the initial shock was over.
An active shooter is absolutely terrifying to contemplate, but inside the situation it’s actually more confusing than anything else. I’m glad to see the DoD is now allowing personnel to carry weapons on base, because it is frightening how quickly someone can kill multiple people before the police show up. Our shooter was only walking and had to reload manually, yet he managed to kill a lot of people before the police response time. Luckily, we identified areas we can fix, and I think the body count the next time won’t be so high.
My only wish at the end was that I share my experiences with non-military members, so that if they found themselves facing an active shooter, they could learn from my drill mistakes and perhaps save their life.
This post represents the views of the author and does not represent the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy or any other agency. Please pray for the victims of active shooters, including the knifing victims recently at Ohio State. And if you’re in the military, take your Active Shooter training seriously…it might just save your life!
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