FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Aug. 22, 2012) -- On July 20, a man walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., dressed in police riot gear, armed to the teeth and ready for violence. In a room full of Batman fans dressed in costume for the movie's premiere, the accused shooter, James Holmes, was just another masked face in the crowd until he opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding dozens of others.

It was the first time the world ever heard of James Holmes, and the question on everyone's mind was "How could this tragedy have been avoided?"

"We're concerned about the rise in active shooter incidents, as well as folks getting concealed weapons permits. Even though we educate them, they sometimes try to bring (weapons) on post," said Mark Mallach, Fort Jackson installation antiterrorism officer.

The incident in Aurora prompted several requests for active shooter training on Fort Jackson, he said. The garrison antiterrorism officer can assist organizations on post conduct training, provide standard operating procedure templates and provide an assessment tailored to individual facilities.

"It's like a fire drill," Mallach said. "We focus on 'sheltering in place,' finding your safe rooms, having a plan and being ready. You never know when an active shooter will strike. Nothing is sacred -- churches, malls, temples, movie theaters, the street, hair salons, you name it."

The average active shooter incident lasts between four and seven minutes, he said.

"It sounds like a short amount of time, but it's a long time when you're trying to dodge bullets," he said. "An active shooter usually goes into an area where he knows nobody is armed. The old term used to be 'school shooter,' but it happens everywhere now."

August is Antiterrorism Awareness Month, which has also prompted interest in active shooter training, he said. Even though recent active shooter incidents in the United States have not been classified strictly as "terrorism," the principles remain the same.

"The timing of the month in itself is certainly not by accident. We're recognizing that we are coming into the 10th anniversary since 9/11," said Col. Mark S. Inch, the Army's deputy provost marshal general. "Last year was the first year that we designated August as the Antiterrorism Awareness Month, and we found it very beneficial for having done so."

"If you see something, say something," Mallach said. "It goes hand-in-hand with the Army's iWatch program."

The iWatch program encourages Army-wide community awareness and outreach efforts in regards to potential terrorist activities. Billed as the 21st century Neighborhood Watch, iWatch is a community terror-watch program that uses Soldiers, their families and civilians as the garrison's "eyes and ears" to report any suspicious activity to base authorities.

Reports are then passed on to the FBI's eGuardian system, which connects law enforcement agencies and intelligence organizations at all levels of government across the U.S.

"We don't want to make people paranoid, but our focus is creating a safer environment, especially on our installation," Mallach said. "We need to be able to defend ourselves. There aren't any sheepdogs nearby and the wolves are coming."

Page last updated Wed August 22nd, 2012 at 00:00