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NEWS | April 6, 2015

Run, hide or fight: Wildcats train in surviving an active shooter

By Story by Staff Sgt. Toshiko Gregg 81st Regional Support Command

FORT JACKSON, S.C. – For the past 10 years approximately 46 people have been killed on a military installation across the country by an active shooter. 

The 81st Regional Support Command Headquarters participated in an antiterrorism and mass causality exercise sponsored by the Fort Jackson Department of Emergency Services (DES) this week, to take the necessary measures to ensure all staff members are trained and educated on how to respond when an active shooter is in the vicinity.

To prepare for the installation wide exercise, the Soldiers and civilians at the 81st RSC trained through crawl, walk and run phases. 

“Annually the 81st RSC conducts classroom active shooter training to inform everyone on how to react and respond if an active shooter enters the building,” said Capt. Christina Teagarden, Antiterrorism Officer, 81st Headquarters Company. “Everyone was shown where the safe rooms are, evacuation routes and rally points.”

The walk phase was completed last month with an active shooter drill where the Mass Notification System was sounded and everyone had to run, hide, or fight. Follow up training was conducted to correct issues from this drill, and the Fort Jackson exercise was used as the run phase.

“Myself and Albert Alford who is one of our antiterrorism specialists here at the 81st, participated in the Fort Jackson Force Protection meetings that led to the development of this exercise. We then got involved with the planning and attending meeting to ensure the 81st received relevant mission essential training,” said Teagarden. 

Fort Jackson’s two-day simulated exercise began with two suspicious packages left at locations that prompted emergency services to respond. On the second day the 81st Headquarters was put to the test when two active shooters entered the building through an unsecured door. This experience gave the 81st staff a more realistic atmosphere with sounds of screams, loud gunshots and bombs which tested the response time and procedures of the command.

“The 81st RSC employees did an excellent job with the drill,” said Laura Steele, Director of Emergency Services. “Our staff maintained good noise discipline and would not open their door for anyone which was what we had trained them to do.”

The 81st DES Antiterrorism Specialists, David Perkins and John Barnett, were involved in planning the exercise by coordinating and attending multiple pre-exercise meetings, and provided the Fort Jackson antiterrorism officer with results. The preparation for the event involved both preparing the 81st staff to react, and testing the coordination with outside emergency response organizations that would respond in a real incident.

“Once the meetings were attended, and our requirements and concerns were discussed the focus was on the safety of personnel, training value and mission impact,” said Perkins. “The 81st reacted very well to the active shooters, personnel either evacuated or entered safe rooms as trained, and I’m very pleased with the results.”

Quenette Ferguson, an auditor for the Internal Review Office at the 81st RSC was sitting at her cubicle reading a report when she heard a female running and yelling, “ACTIVE SHOOTER.” She thought someone was playing around and did not really pay any attention to her environment. Suddenly her supervisor called for her that’s when she realized she needed to move to a secure location.

“In all of my previous trainings I did not anticipate that the active shooter alarm would not necessary be the first indication that there was trouble,” said Ferguson. “After the exercise, I realized in a real life situation those few moments I sat there in my cubicle could have resulted in an unfavorable outcome for myself. I learned a valuable lesson; not to only be aware of my surroundings at all times, but to react quickly at the first sign of trouble even if I think it is false. I will immediately run, hide or fight.”