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Security Forces practices and teaches active shooter scenario

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE - EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- A series of coordinated attacks by terrorist extremists strikes the citizens of Paris, killing 130. A hotel siege in Mali by two men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives claims 20 more in another jihadi attack. A shootout between two groups disrupts a neighborhood block party in New Orleans. Twenty-three separate shootings on various U.S. college campuses raise concerns throughout institutions of higher learning.

Closer to home at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, the deadliest mass shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook incident in Newtown, Connecticut has news outlets around the world and social media sites stirring debate over the latest massacre.

All of these events involved an active shooter or multiple shooters, a fact not lost on the 90-member 61st Security Forces Squadron charged with defending and protecting personnel and assets at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo and Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro, California. For the 61st SFS, dealing with an active shooter is now integrated into their training.

For these reasons, Air Force ROTC Detachment 55 at the University of California, Los Angeles recently contacted the 61st SFS's training section and scheduled four members from the squadron to conduct an academic briefing on active shooter situations during the detachment's leadership lab at UCLA's Westwood campus.

"They pretty much had their entire detachment in there. We went over our training that we provide our base populace here that goes over what the active shooter is, and how you as a person involved in that kind of scenario should act or respond," explained Maj. Gregory DeGruchy, commander of the 61st SFS. "We gave them a little bit of what you could tactically see from police officers, and how they should act."

According to DeGruchy, the Umpqua Community College incident in Roseburg, Oregon and the July 2015 shooting at a recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee were good reasons why the cadets at UCLA needed this type of training.

"Not only are they students in a school ... they also wear uniforms," said DeGruchy. "So it's important that they understand and know how to protect themselves and how to best shield themselves from these kinds of incidents."

The majority of active shooter training is already established material that is put out to the base by the 61st SFS.

"A lot of it comes from the DODI directives as well as the Air Force Office of Emergency Management's PowerPoint that they push out," explained Cpl. Tony Vo, a DOD police officer and one of four presenters to brief the AFROTC leadership lab at UCLA. "So we just pushed out as the biggest driving home factor, 'It's not if it's going to happen, but when it's going to happen.' So it's mental preparedness in itself."

According to Vo, the 61st SFS team covered shelter-in-place procedures vs. evacuation -- when you should do one vs. the other -- and the correct way to shelter-in-place or evacuate. The last portion of the academic briefing addressed a last resort, life-threatening situation.

The Air Force has implemented a series of new steps to improve base security following an order from Defense Secretary Ash Carter to improve the safety of military facilities. This includes increasing the number of armed security forces on bases through multiple programs, expanded force protection measures at off-installation facilities, and working on a long-term mass notification system.

As a part of the new protocols, off-base facilities need to establish and maintain emergency action plans, which have to be practiced at least twice per year.

This fact was recently demonstrated during a Nov. 4, 2015 active shooter exercise on the grounds of the Schriever Space Complex at Los Angeles AFB.

For 15 minutes, from the time the shooter first took his shot, to the "firefight and active engagement" with law enforcement responders, the installation went from the relative quiet of a normal, business-like day to the shattering sounds of semi-automatic gunfire, broken by occasional announcements from the command post over the base-wide public address system of "Lockdown, Lockdown, Lockdown."

The unknown "active shooter," brandishing an AR-15 assault rifle, made his way through Bldg. 271, managing to "kill" six and "seriously wound" 12 victims before being identified, isolated and eventually neutralized by 61st SFS personnel. The lessons learned will be added to the growing list of scenarios to be shared with other South Bay law enforcement agencies the 61st SFS works with since there is no pattern or method to an active shooter's selection of victims.

"We train our guys on law enforcement response like how to go in, identify, isolate and neutralize, whereas the training we provided the AFROTC cadets at UCLA was more of, 'as a victim of an active shooter, this is your role'," said Vo.

"We live in a generation where this is not something new. A lot of places we go to, like The Aerospace Corporation for instance, it's eye-opening to them. But all these 19- and 20-year-old college students, who grew up in this era of gun violence, they get it," said Vo. "I think the eye-opening portion for them to know was when we come in, we're going to where the shots were fired, not to help them like on TV where it shows where they're triaging them. Our role is to go straight to the shooter, identify, isolate and neutralize the threat."

"That's the overall objective, because if we don't neutralize them, then they're going to continue the shooting until they are stopped," said DeGruchy. "The intent is to have them engage us, so either we can tie them up and stop them from killing unarmed individuals, or we get ahead of them and neutralize them before they even know we're there."

For more information, visit the Air Force's "Be Ready" active shooter site at http://www.beready.af.mil/