The Dec. 3 Christmas party for Soldiers and civilians at the Mission and Installation Contracting Command-Fort Riley had an uncomfortable moment when Staff Sgt. Anuresh Chand had a few harsh words with Adam Treen, quality assurance specialist.
But it didn't end at the party. In the following days, the fight escalated and employees heard the two have heated words again. Tensions boiled over Dec. 5 when Chand tracked down Treen in the hallway and started yelling at him.
Two employees later admitted the fight was to the point they were about to go break it up. "Don't walk away from me," they heard Chand yell -- then shots rang out and they took cover.
Fortunately, neither the fight nor the shooting were real; all events were staged as part of a training exercise. Chand said he never took acting classes, but he pulled off a performance that had coworkers convinced.
"There was a retired military policeman who thought it was an actual argument," he said. "I think we did pretty good."
He said the idea was to make the exercise realistic. In addition to giving Fort Riley Fire Department personnel training, MICC leadership wanted to see how their employees would react to an emergency situation. Employees had been forewarned to expect some type drill in the near future but no details were released either about what kind or when it would be.
After the fight started, Chand yelled out a code word, which cued Chris Hallenbeck, Fort Riley emergency management coordinator with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, to fire a starter pistol several times. At that point the first call went out to 911. Staff Sgt. Maria Espinosa called and reported "exercise, exercise, exercise." She did this so that when subsequent calls were made, 911 operators knew it was a drill.
Espinosa then took her place on the floor calling out for help as fake blood soaked her clothing. Treen meanwhile, fell to the floor in the break room and lay in a growing pool of fake blood.
A few more shots rang out and Anissa Beasinger became the next victim. Chand then went upstairs to confront Anthony Tiroch, MICC deputy director, who became the next casualty of the simulated gunfire. Tiroch sat in his office calling for help until fire department personnel arrived to wheel him in his office chair to the elevator and to safety.
The building went quiet with the exception of the actors calling for help and an occasional random shot to remind people the scene was not clear.
As the exercise progressed, fire department personnel entered, cleared the building and tended to the wounded.
Employees gathered outside before returning for an after-action report at the conclusion of the exercise.
Lt. Col. Robert Bartruff, MICC commander, said he was pleased with the response.
"It went very well in the sense that folks hid and locked their doors," he said. "We made a lot of 911 calls," he said. "I know that is key -- not to presume that other people made the call."
During the exercise, two employees moved out of their secure spots to try and help wounded coworkers.
Tracey Stockert, agency program coordinator for the Government Purchase Card, pulled Beasinger into her office while Phillip Reuwer, contract specialist, tried to help Espinosa, but when he could not get her to move, and upon hearing additional shots, he took cover back in his office.
Bartruff said it can be a tough call to know what to do in a real situation.
"You may not know who the shooter is," he said. "If you expose yourself, you could end up getting shot as well; now instead of one casualty there's two."
That point was echoed by Hallenbeck who asked why they left their safe locations. Both expressed a need and desire to help their co-workers.
"I heard her whimpering and I couldn't stand it anymore," Stockert said, even though by that time she knew it was an exercise.
Reuwer said when he first left his spot, he had stopped hearing gunfire, but when he got to Espinosa's side, he heard more shots ring out.
"When you make that decision, nobody is going to say it is right or wrong," Hallenbeck said. "But at that point was the building fully clear? It is something to think about -- it is your decision."
At the AAR, exercise evaluators also spoke about the importance of knowing details like room numbers and directions. If someone was barricaded in a room, they may need to tell dispatch if they are on the north, east, west or south side of the building.
They discussed other points of safety, such as when it is safe to leave a locked office and how to discern if the pounding on the door is from emergency personnel or the shooter.
When the exercise and after-action ended, the actors were commended by their coworkers for their performances before they headed back to work.