Fort Rucker DPS, USAARL, put active-shooter response skills to the test

By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsJanuary 19, 2022

Exercise 1
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety first responders enter the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory building as role players ask for help during an active-shooter response exercise at the Jan. 12. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
Exercise 2
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – DPS police secure the suspect. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
Exercise 3
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Emergency responders tend to a simulated casualty in the entryway of the building. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
Exercise 4
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Rucker emergency responders make their way through the USAARL hallways to find casualties. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
Exercise 5
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Medical personnel treat a simulated casualty outside of the building. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety honed its emergency response skills and the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory put its active-shooter response plans to the test during an exercise Jan. 12 at the lab.

Even though gunshots sounded, fake blood flowed and gruesome injuries were moulaged onto volunteers, the exercise went well, according to Lt. Col. Phillip Lenz, director of DPS.

“This was an exceptional exercise for both USAARL and the DPS,” he said. “All of our training objectives were met, and both organizations learned valuable lessons in support of emergency action plans and the overall DPS approach as we prepare for the upcoming full-scale exercise in February.”

USAARL officials also found the training highly valuable for several reasons, according to Maj. Michelle Slayden, USAARL director of the Research Operations Group and executive officer.

“Leadership at USAARL works hard to provide a safe work environment for our Soldiers and staff,” she said. “One of the most important ways we do this is by organizing training on how to confront potential hazards and threatening scenarios.”

The active-shooter response exercise was the latest example of this kind of training, Slayden added.

“It was our way of offering our unit’s personnel assurance that leadership takes their safety seriously,” she said. “We wanted them to gain confidence that if a worst-case scenario were to occur, we have a plan in place that we have practiced as a unit, and that it is reviewed and updated regularly.”

The exercise also provided USAARL the opportunity to collaborate with multiple agencies from across Fort Rucker “to provide a realistic training environment and to gain a better understanding of how our internal emergency action plan nests with those of our Fort Rucker partners,” Slayden added.

And that’s all to the good, Lenz said, adding that he appreciates USAARL partnering with DPS for the exercise.

“As a result of our request to find a host to conduct higher level training, USAARL stepped up as an incredible partner, and an organization who is as passionate about protecting their people and accomplishing the mission as we are,” he said. “Col. Mike Tarpey and his team were great to work with and that passion starts at the top of the organization.”

Exercises such as this one are vital to validating and improving upon the plans designed to ensure the safety of those who live, work and play on Fort Rucker, Lenz said.

“We owe it to the Fort Rucker community to continually hone our collective DPS response approach and, even more so, to always look for ways to get better,” he said.

“We can't stress enough the importance of communication at all levels, where it starts with the police responding to neutralize the threat, and the many actions and requirements for the incident command post,” Lenz added. “As the situation matures, it is imperative that the ICP provides critical information to the incident operations center to support senior commander information requirements and common operating picture development.”

In addition to the communication focus, the DPS learned several ways to improve the collective approach to its response, he said.

“This exercise allowed us to validate our standard operating procedure for the use of the rescue task force that combines police and fire assets to go into the ‘warm zone’ to move key patients to the casualty collection point for triage and ambulatory movement,” Lenz said.

Slayden complimented the entire DPS staff for making the exercise a total success for USAARL.

“The close coordination for this exercise with the DPS team has been phenomenal,” she said. “The professionalism, experience and attention to detail that DPS brought to the table in the planning and execution of this extremely valuable training event has been tremendous.

“The USAARL team has learned so much throughout the process of planning and carrying out the active shooter exercise,” Slayden said. “Overall, we at USAARL consider the exercise to have been a tremendously positive experience and we eagerly look forward to future collaboration with our partners throughout Fort Rucker.”