ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
Ellsworth Air Force Base conducted an active shooter exercise Feb. 22.
The exercise inspected nearly 20 different locations on base, testing each individual’s ability to respond to an active shooter situation within their building.
“We were evaluating the base’s ability to react to an active shooter situation by going into at least one building from every squadron and either having them physically exercise their run, hide or fight portion, or by going through the checklist and asking them questions,” said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Thomas, the 28th Bomb Wing inspector general noncommissioned officer in charge of plans and programs.
Most locations were tested by wing inspection teams starting “what if” conversations with individuals and groups on the topic of active shooter situations and how they would react to them. In three locations, participants were expected to treat the exercise like a real-life situation.
“For some buildings, there was a card explaining that there is an active shooter in the building and it tells them where [the active shooter] is,” Thomas said. “That info is carefully chosen to get the reaction we need to evaluate that whole facility.”
The 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit was one group that had to run, hide or fight.
“I heard [it] over the radio, then someone was walking up and down the halls telling everybody there was an active shooter training going on,” said Airman Paul Sachse, a B-1 crew chief assigned to the 34th AMU. “The other Airmen in the room with me had a system set up to barricade the door, shut the lights off, block off all the windows and be silent until we got the all clear that the exercise was done.”
Months of preparation backed the unique exercise.
“It’s been a five monthlong process building up to this one day,” Thomas said. “In the past, we’d have one active shooter on the base and only a few people run, hide and fight while the rest of the base locks down and watches as security forces and the fire department responds. That doesn’t give us a good idea of what the individual readiness is across the base.”
The 28th IG team developed the most current exercise to better evaluate this.
“The way we performed this one, we exercised around 20 different squadrons at the same instant,” Thomas said. “This gives us a better sample where the wing as a whole is at.”
Ellsworth AFB practices two active shooter drills a year, but groups, squadrons and units can request additional training through contacting the 28th Security Forces Squadron at (605) 385-4294.
The IG office is currently reviewing the results of the exercise and planning for the next one.