MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The Combat Center conducted an active-shooter scenario at the Education Center Feb. 25, as part of Semper Durus, an annual exercise conducted Marine Corps installations on the west-coast. The purpose of the exercise is to evaluate emergency responders’ actions during crisis situations.
“They were briefed on a number of scenarios including an active shooter,” said Niki McBain, emergency manager, Mission Assurance/ Force Protection. “Everyone knew something was going to happen the morning of the 25th. They didn’t know what. They didn’t know when.”
At 9:06 a.m., a man with an M16 A4 service rifle stepped into the building, there was a simulated casualty only seconds later.
“We actually had someone, an actor, come in and actually open fire, using blank rounds to simulate what people would actually do should an active-shooter event occur,” McBain said. “Fortunately, people did exactly what they were supposed to do and call [emergency services] from their cell phone.”
More than 120 service members and civilians participated in the active-shooter exercise, where an actor with 40 blank rounds entered the building and began shooting participants. Faculty and students immediately called the emergency numbers while the shooter made his way through the three-story building.
One thing they want people to be aware of to follow certain steps during an active-shooter scenario, McBain said. The first thing that individuals should do is to flee the scene if it is safe to do so.
When unsafe, individuals can also seek a room for shelter, lock the door and improvise a barricade with furniture, such as chairs and desks.
As the active shooter traversed through each floor, he went through every open room, shooting anyone in sight. Luckily, the majority of the rooms he tried to enter were locked and barricaded, forcing him to move on.
“My job isn’t to just shoot people,” said Gunnery Sgt. Robert Warfield, the active shooter for the scenario. “I have to evaluate how people react.”
Soon, his actions were brought to an end. Officers with the Provost Marshal’s Office tactically swept the building and diffused the situation. They were followed by Emergency Medical Services, who provided medical care for the simulated casualties.
“One of the things we want to truly exercise is not just how PMO responds to an event, but also how they clear that scene and allow the fire and EMS to come in,” McBain said.
Soon after PMO and EMS entered, the threat was mitigated and casualties were triaged and moved to the hospital for further care and treatment. However, this did not mean their work was done.
“It actually lasted until Thursday morning,” McBain said. “What most people don’t realize about an active shooter is they only think of the immediate action that has to occur. But there’s a lot that goes beyond that. [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and [Criminal Investigation Division] both did a scene survey and made sure everything on the scene was collected for evidence.”
Although Semper Durus is an annual event, the Combat Center’s emergency services train year-round. The exercises and scenarios, they conduct are not evaluated for score. They focus on constantly improving themselves.
“One of the things that we note is that things that are muscle memory will have a better response,” McBain said. “All of these agencies need to respond timely and effectively the first time. In order to do that, we have to practice.”