JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas --
Can training save your life?
Brig. Gen Caroline Miller thinks so, and as a testament to that, signed an operation order in November 2020 directing significant changes to active attack training, sometimes called active shooter training, requirements for members of Joint Base San Antonio.
“Active attack training can mean the difference between life and death,” Miller said. “Every commander needs to delegate a representative from their unit to complete the training. That representative will need to share active shooter protocol with their unit to ensure that everyone knows how to handle an active shooter situation.”
This training will be provided quarterly, at a minimum for Wing Inspection Team members, unit antiterrorism representatives, and others appointed by commanders.
Those mandated to attend the training will be expected to pass the life-saving knowledge to everyone in their unit.
“It’s not just a requirement to check a box,” said Robert Vickers, 502nd Security Forces Group plans and program manager. “It is information you can actually use to save your own life. You can pass it on to your family; your loved ones. The more you understand what you can do, the greater ability you have to control your own safety and save your life.”
Vickers teaches the active attack course and explains the dynamics of “escape, barricade and fight” to his students.
“In my 30 years of federal service, this was the best active shooter training I have taken,” said Bernadette Gast, protocol advisor for JBSA, who facilitated the course for her office.
The training was intense, Gast said, noting that hearts were pumping and there were no glazed-over eyes or sleepy faces during the class.
“I felt like people were really focused on learning what to do,” she said. “I think we're going to have this training more frequently so it will stay fresh in people's minds. I think that this will help people not freeze up in fear; it will help them remember how to react.”
Vickers agreed that the training can help people react more quickly in stressful situations like an active shooter incident.
“What we do in this training is, we help you process information as rapidly as possible so that you can take the actions needed to help save your own life,” he said.
The course also goes into detail about the psychology behind responses to active shooters.
“It’s more than just teaching,” Vickers said. “That alone is simply not enough. People need to understand how they are going to react when something like this happens.”
The goal of the course is to create a community of informed, prepared and resilient personnel at JBSA who are capable of surviving an active attack incident.
“We are all taught since childhood how to react in case of a fire. Same thing with a tornado,” Vickers said. “One thing about these incidents is, there is a time frame in there in which you have to react. With an active shooter, it’s almost instantaneous. That’s why it’s so important to know ahead of time.”
Vickers said that in 2015, an active shooter entered an Armed Forces recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He had previously trained those service members’ leaders and believes that training made a difference in the responses to the shooter, and possibly saved lives.
Like Vickers, Gast said she feels the training has prepared her to respond well if she is ever caught in the middle of a suddenly life-threatening incident.
“Hopefully, we never have a real-life active shooter situation,” Gast said. “But if we do, at least with this training we will be prepared for it.”