Cracks of gunfire echoed down the hallways, injured victims shouted for help and law enforcement officers wrestled an armed suspect to the ground.
“There’s a lot of things that keep an installation commander up at night and this is one of them,” said Navy Capt. Anthony T. Calandra, commander of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, during a Feb. 25 press conference.
Fortunately, Calandra was not talking about a real-world shooting incident, like the one that took place Tuesday at Naval Station Norfolk.
Instead, he was talking about a just-completed training exercise at JBAB. The active-shooter drill was part of the annual Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield exercise Navy Installations conducted Feb. 24-28.
“We want to be fully prepared for this kind of situation, if it would happen on the joint base here or any naval installation,” Calandra said. “The purpose was to fine-tune our skills in this area and to respond to the event as it would happen.”
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Calandra and other officials stressed that the drill was part of regular training and in no way was a response to the Sept. 16, 2013, Navy Yard shooting in which government contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 people.
“We do this kind of training year-round,” Calandra said. “We’ve done it a long time and it’s important that we’re prepared for this kind of situation. We have to continue to do this.”
According to Capt. Carlos Ansley of JBAB’s Department of Defense Police, two two-man teams confronted the threat during the drill and apprehended the victim. Afterwards, the responding officers conducted a sweep of the building and performed a detailed search.
“When law enforcement responds initially to a scene, their mission is to make sure the scene is safe and if there are any threats, those threats are neutralized,” Ansley said. “As a law enforcement officer, it’s their secondary (mission) to provide first aid. Their first mission is to make sure the scene is safe for everybody.”
In a real emergency situation, members of the fire department or other rescue personnel would not be allowed to enter a scene until law enforcement deems it safe to do so.
A planned response by emergency medical personnel was delayed during the exercise when the team was called out to a real-world emergency elsewhere on the base. Otherwise, the exercise went off without a hitch.
“I think we had a really good response initially, ” said Timothy Trammell, installation training and readiness officer at JBAB. “Even though we had a few real-world emergencies go down simultaneously, that just shows you the broad spectrum we have to be able to respond to not only real-world but as an exercise as well.”
As part of the shooter exercise, Trammell and his team instructed some of the “victims” to tell the responding officers that a second shooter was present.
“There was a search for another shooter to an extent,” he said. “We had it as a white cell. We injected something like that to more go along the lines of other occurrences of active shooters and they did disseminate that out to other officers. They did do some question and answers with the victims to find out whether it was true or not.”
Calandra said the active-shooter exercise was just one part of a multi-pronged training scenario that’s regularly conducted at the base.
“We do the active shooter portion here, where we bring in our security forces and make sure that we can neutralize whatever the situation is,” he said.
At the same time, installation personnel have to train all of the base’s employees on how to respond to an active-shooter attack. This is done through a combination of online exercises and in-person training.
“We’ll come into an office and discuss how they would respond to it and maybe do a small drill for them,” Calandra said.
Just as important as training for situations like this is recognizing threats beforehand and preventing them from happening. The installation also provides support services and counseling for those who might need it.
“We need to train our leaders to identify people who may be having problems out there and make sure they’re getting the help they need before something can escalate out of control,” he said.
Each week, Defense Reporter Jared Serbu speaks one-on-one and in depth with the people responsible for managing the inner workings of the federal government's largest department, and those who know it best. Subscribe to the latest episode on PodcastOne or iTunes.