By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 12, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The threat of an active shooter is a haunting reality across the country and units on Fort Rucker want to make sure they are ready for any threat that might come their way.
The 1st Battalion, 11th Aviation Regiment, conducted one of its semi-annual exercises at Lucas Stagefield Feb. 28 to provide Soldiers and civilians real-world training on procedures to deal with an active shooter, as well as test communications channels when working with outside agencies, according to Maj. Lucas Crabtree, 1-11th Avn. Regt. operations officer.
"We have 14 remote stagefields, and having 14 stagefields we have to learn who is going to support us in the case of an incident," said Crabtree. "Many of these stagefields are very remote … so we have to know who we're going to be working with in those areas outside of the military police because their response time is going to be a little bit lengthened coming from (Fort Rucker) to those stage fields."
During the exercise scenario, an active shooter gained access to Lucas Stagefield, endangering the Soldiers within the towers and those working on the premises, said the operations officer. Since the stagefield is located some distance from the installation, the first responders on the scene will be outside agencies -- in this case the Coffee County Sheriff's Department.
Since Fort Rucker military police will not be the first on the scene, it's imperative that Fort Rucker and outside agencies will be on the same page when dealing with a threat, added Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker community police chief.
"It always helps when we do (these exercises) to help build the team, meaning that we're comfortable with their procedures and they're comfortable with our procedures," said Dumais. "Working with them and understanding how they do things helps us when it comes time to getting the scene turned back over to us, as far as protecting the crime scene, evidence processing, working with CID and the FBI -- all of that.
"(Coffee County) may be the first responding units out there and they may be the ones dealing with the threat," said the police chief, "but at some point it's going to get turned back over to us because the stagefield does belong to Fort Rucker."
When the transition happens, all agencies need to be able to communicate with each other on the situation so that there is no confusion. Furthermore, communication must be clear during the scenario, as well, to ensure that the active shooter doesn't have an upper hand, said Crabtree.
"An active shooter wants mass confusion at a site, and that's not something we want -- we want to be on it very fast," he said. "When you start working with external agencies from different parts of the area, they're going to have different ways of doing things. If we're not clear and concise, and using terminology that they're familiar with, then we may find ourselves not able to communicate. (In that situation) the active shooter may get the upper hand because of miscommunication -- that's not something we want to happen."
With communication clear, players for the Coffee County Sheriff's Department were able to apprehend the suspect and take control of the stagefield before turning things over to Fort Rucker.
Although the exercise was meant to test the communications of all agencies involved, the exercise was also a good opportunity for the Soldiers who work at the stagefield to get real-world training on what to do in the event of an active shooter.
"(The Soldiers) learned a lot," said Crabtree. "They've been practicing, and every stagefield will do a communication exercise and rerun through the same procedures as we did during that day, so each stagefield gets a chance to run through the procedures."
An after-action report will be conducted in order to go more in depth to talk about what was done right and what needs work.
"Any time we can continue to talk with our local counterparts, it helps us understand how we do things and they know how we operate, as well," added Dumais. "I think the exercise went well, and with it being distant from the main cantonment area, we are reliant on our local partners to step up in those cases, and Coffee County did a great job for us."