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Mass. Air Guardsmen conduct ‘Active Shooter’ training

Airmen from the 102nd Security Forces Squadron conduct a training session at Dever State School in Taunton, Mass., Oct. 2, 2010. The Airmen learned how to handle a situation involving a suspect who is actively moving about and shooting at people within a building.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Aaron Smith)

Airmen from the 102nd Security Forces Squadron conduct a training session at Dever State School in Taunton, Mass., Oct. 2, 2010. The Airmen learned how to handle a situation involving a suspect who is actively moving about and shooting at people within a building. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Aaron Smith)

Airmen from the 102nd Security Forces Squadron conduct a training session at Dever State School in Taunton, Mass., Oct. 2, 2010. The Airmen learned how to handle a situation involving a suspect who is actively moving about and shooting at people within a building.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Aaron Smith)

Airmen from the 102nd Security Forces Squadron conduct a training session at Dever State School in Taunton, Mass., Oct. 2, 2010. The Airmen learned how to handle a situation involving a suspect who is actively moving about and shooting at people within a building. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Aaron Smith)

TAUNTON, Mass. -- It starts with a panicked phone call.

"Someone has a gun and is moving through the building, shooting anyone they come across!" the caller screams.

People are confused and caught off guard as they try to hide from the destructive path of the shooter.

We have seen this event unfold many times before, in 1999 when two students terrorized a school in Columbine, Colo. In 2008, where within three days, shooters killed 173 people in coordinated attacks throughout Mumbai, India. In 2009, within minutes, 13 people were killed at Ft. Hood in Texas by someone who was supposed to be a trusted and reliable individual, a fellow Army officer.

With threats of Mumbai-style attacks recently leveled against the United States, the possibility of events like these happening, literally anywhere, is real. This was on the minds of 102nd Security Forces Squadron Airmen as they met in Taunton, Mass., to receive "active-shooter" training.

On Oct. 2, 12 Airmen from the 102nd Security Forces Squadron and several instructors gathered in front of an abandoned building at the former Dever State School complex as Sean Barry, a civilian law enforcement "active-shooter" instructor with more than six years of experience in the subject matter, detailed just how the day's training would go. Over the next few hours, Barry covered techniques and principles that demonstrated the change in thinking that had occurred since the day of the Columbine event.

Technical Sgt. Theodore Whitney, 102nd Security Forces Squadron training section, helped organize the training and explained, "Now, we're going directly to the threat and taking the fight to them to try and save lives, where before, you methodically (went) in and searched room by room." This change in procedure requires new skills and strategies. In situations where one or two seconds can determine everything, Airmen learned an array of skills. They learned everything from broad skills, such as how to quickly and safely move throughout a building as part of a small cohesive team that leaves no angle unguarded, to the minute skills, like how to breech an inward opening door as opposed to one that opens outward.

"Although Security Forces Airmen are trained to clear buildings, this is a little bit more advanced than what these guys learn at technical school. As far as these kinds of incidents happening on a military installation, I think the focus has become a little bit stronger on that type of training," said Sergeant Whitney.

The morning was spent providing Airmen with tools and strategies to keep them safe. In order to drive the point home, the stakes were raised in the afternoon when the Airmen were given an opportunity to apply the principles they had learned, as instructors and trainees were outfitted with non-lethal, but painful, simulated munitions (simunitions). Using this form of ammunition allows Airmen to utilize their issued weapons but substitute ammunition tipped with paint capsules for their normal ammunition tipped with bullets.

"It allows us to bring a more realistic environment to the training scenario by using the actual weapons. During the practice phase they get the fundamentals down, but when it comes time to actually using "simunition" everything changes, the stress factors come into play," said Sergeant Whitney.

Throughout the day, instructors and trainees played out a number of scenarios as "simunition" rounds started to litter the halls and star-shaped paint marks spotted the walls and the occasional uniform.

Each training scenario was driven by actual events and the lessons learned from them with the hope that if anything were ever to happen on Otis Air National Guard Base, the Airmen of the 102nd Security Forces Squadron will be prepared to handle it.