Active shooter: Military and civilian law enforcers team up to train for future threats
March 28, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - Teams of international law enforcement officers raced into a building on Wackernheim's McCully Barracks March 14 to subdue an active shooter. The goal was to take out the threat as quickly as possible while preventing any loss of life.
The active shooter instructor training capped three days of intense classroom and hands-on scenarios March 12-14 on Wiesbaden Army Airfield, at the Hessen Polizei Academy and on McCully Barracks that brought German civilian police together with U.S. Military Police, Hungarian Customs Special Weapons And Tactics officers and trainers from Canada, Great Britain, Germany and the United States.
"The U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Directorate of Emergency Services has been focusing on this for the past year," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Kullberg, describing the long-standing partnership between the U.S. Military Police and Hessen Polizei. "Our goal is to get our MPs the most realistic and updated training as we can -- facilitating that relationship to get the MPs as highly trained and proficient as possible regarding an active shooter incident.
"We are one of the only garrisons in U.S. Army Europe to have such a robust overall active shooter program with our international partners," Kullberg said. "We want to make sure we continue that relationship through the years."
While previous active shooter training sessions concentrated on the mechanics of how to perform an operation to contain and apprehend a suspect, the most recent training was aimed at preparing the law enforcers to instruct their peers. "Active shooters have become more of a focus for international law enforcement throughout the world. The focus of this training is not so much on active shooter response but on active shooter instructor training," said Kullberg -- giving the participants the tools to train their fellow police officers who might be faced with such an incident.
"Safety is paramount and our number one priority," Kullberg added.
"We're working in four-man groups," said Polizei Hauptkommissar Eckhard Niebergall of the Hessen State Police Academy, describing how members of the team work together to confront an active shooter. The active shooter intervention instructor training also included guidance on the tactics to use with two- and three-person teams, he said.
"We have a two-year program with the Hessen State Police and Wiesbaden MPs," said Niebergall who helped developed the active shooter intervention training for the state of Hessen.
Preparing German and U.S. law enforcers to work together as instructor role models is critical, Niebergall said, explaining that the civilian and military police officers already work together in the field and could assist each other in future training endeavors. "It might also happen that the Hessen Polizei might have to work with American Forces in different German states."
Kullberg pointed out that working and training together builds both professional and personal relationships. "It becomes a personal relationship and friendships that will last for many years."
"During the training we've had the opportunity to work on command and control elements," said Sgt. William Clark, a member of the 148th Military Police Platoon, who was participating in order to become certified as an active shooter instructor.
Clark, who described the joint training as a way of "building bridges" between the different nationalities said he especially appreciated the depth of the instruction and stress placed on safety considerations.
"You have to get to a certain mindset," said Niebergall, explaining that repeated inspections of weapons and gear are part of helping develop cool heads during heated situations. "At the scene doing a short check helps to make sure they are prepared and also gives them a mental check -- getting to a certain mindset. 'Am I ready? Have I checked with my partner? Are you ready?'
"This mindset is at least as important as the tactical training," he said, making sure teams are fully prepared to act under pressure and can count on one another. "That's what we want to encourage -- getting the officers to really respond."
Throughout the training, professional trainers from Great Britain, Canada and the United States were on hand to observe the teams and to give advice on methods of instruction, safety issues and the setup of training.
"Times have changed in the past 40 years," said Gary Monreal, a member of the Team One Network, a training organization based in Virginia, describing how training has incorporated lessons learned from both civilian law enforcement and the military.
"The expectation these days is for law enforcement to get involved immediately," Monreal said, unlike in the past where those first on the scene responding to an active shooter might simply secure the area and wait for more highly trained reinforcements.
The other concern today is that in many incidents the perpetrator might be equally equipped and trained, possibly having served in the military or with the police.
"Unfortunately these officers aren't just going against someone who's distraught and armed with a gun," Monreal said. "There is a much greater potential these days of the person being highly trained with all of the people leaving the military in recent years."
Teaching the future instructor trainers to be equally competent as tacticians and as mentors is crucial, he said. "You need to not only nurture your students, but also to empower them -- to send winners out there. You have to make them understand that they can save their own lives. We need to save each other's life."
The ultimate goal, Monreal stressed, is to save lives to ensure that every law enforcement officer "goes home after every shift."