FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – First responders from across the installation are always on alert for security threats, and their latest training exercise could mean the difference between life and death when responding to one.
The Active Attack Integrated Response Train-the-Trainer Course, or AAIR, is a 40-hour program designed to boost coordination between first responders in the event of an active attack or shooter.
The training was hosted on Fort Campbell for the first time July 12-16 at the vacant Jackson Elementary School.
Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services partnered with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to bring AAIR to the post, with instructors trained in Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, or ALERRT, through Texas State University leading the course.
“Our law enforcement and first responders don’t get a lot of opportunities to train, so when we can bring this and you see light bulbs coming on it’s huge,” said Patrick Meffert, ALERRT instructor. “I think the biggest impact is medical skills ... it doesn’t matter if it’s a motor vehicle accident, a school shooting or a dog bite, if you learn those skills you can use them on any call you have.”
Leaders representing Fort Campbell’s police, fire, emergency medical services and dispatch services, as well as first responders from Montgomery County, learned how to provide emergency medical care for victims and respond to a variety of active attack situations through the training. They also received certifications to deliver the same program within their own agencies.
“Down the line we’ll be looking to put on classes for department personnel, military police and those in the department of emergency services,” said Wes LaFortune, district chief, Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services. “I think learning how to communicate with other agencies has been the biggest takeaway, making sure that everybody’s on the same sheet of music and properly utilizing the command system.”
After receiving classroom instruction to brush up on their tactics, participants ran through several exercises involving stopping active attackers and rescuing victims inside the school.
“There are six basic kinds of scenarios we run to test different parts of the curriculum,” Meffert said. “There’s been a huge difference in how they’re reacting, from the first scenario where we had to spend a little bit more time making sure they were moving in the right direction, working out some bugs in communication and things like that. But once we did, I’ve seen progress in every run.”
Lieutenant Pedro Hernandez, a watch commander with the Installation Provost Marshal Office, said the exercises helped address communication gaps between agencies on post. He wants to continue improving their coordination as a trainer.
“The police on Fort Campbell and the fire department, we need to work together and train together more than we do,” Hernandez said. “I want to be able to pass this information on to more people in the PMO, and hopefully coordinate some more training with the fire department where we can practice this in real time a little bit better.”
First responders also were able to work with off-post agencies like the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Clarksville Police Department throughout the week.
“You get to experience other responders’ roles,” said Marc Rogers, Fort Campbell Emergency Medical Services chief. “And it’s helpful to build these relationships with other agencies because if something major does happen it might be all of us in this room responding to it.”
Sergeant Dave Keenom with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said the county made it a priority for deputies to attend the class and may incorporate tactics from AAIR into the department’s annual in-service training.
“It gets everyone organized together,” he said. “Different agencies have different terminologies, and it’s important to be able to work with fire and EMS as a team. There’s four out here from MCSO, and all of us teach the active shooter training for the county. This way we’re all on the same page, and we know how to train people on this.”
Participants had their first chance to lead that training during the course’s second half, when they were tasked with running scenarios and classroom instruction themselves to earn their certificates. According to Meffert, certified AAIR instructors can request a training kit from ALERRT’s headquarters valued at $80,000 for free to schedule their own courses.
“To law enforcement, time is everything,” he said. “But what this does do for them is alleviate that cost monetarily, and being here on Fort Campbell is great for them to not only work with federal employees but to have a secure place to train.”