FORT CARSON, Colo.-Fort Carson emergency responders were tested on their force protection response July 21-22 when they were faced with an exercise scenario of a gunman taking hostages at the post middle school.

Mountain Post police, fire and incident response team personnel put their hostage crisis, negotiation and command and control training to the test as volunteer role-players brought the Mountain Thunder exercise to life.

The exercise afforded the Fort Carson garrison commander an opportunity to test one of his top priorities - security on the Mountain Post - in an active-shooter scenario, one Col.

Robert F. McLaughlin calls the most complex of situations.

"We have to continue to be vigilant and be prepared in case of a worst-case scenario," he said.

He said the realism in the training is "incredibly important," noting mistakes made on the practice run do not cost lives. McLaughlin said a team added "injects" to the scenario based on the emergency responder's actions.

"The more realistic (the exercise is) the better, the more we practice the better we are," he said. "It's all about the security for not just our Families and Soldiers on the installation, but the community that surrounds Fort Carson."

McLaughlin said quarterly exercises such as Mountain Thunder helps with team building within the Fort Carson installation force protection agencies but also with community organizations.

Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, who operates Carson Middle School, benefits from these exercises as Fort Carson incident commanders are familiarized with the facilities and school district officials gain an understanding of police protocols, said Dr. David Roudebush, assistant superintendent.

"(As a result of the exercises,) each year when we re-evaluate our crisis management plans we are able to incorporate their strategies into our plans; so it's a cohesive model," he said.

Roudebush assures parents that schools remain among the safest places in the nation.

"Even though (there have been) tragedies in the past, the odds an incident is going to occur in the school and harm a child are very, very rare, he said. "(We) plan for the worst

so that we are able to make sure the parents know that we have their students' best interests in mind and we're going to do whatever we can to make sure they are safe here at school."

Fort Carson Provost Marshall Capt. Erik Archer praised the entire law enforcement team - military police on scene, the ready platoon, Special Reaction Team and incident management team - who "performed superbly well" securing the scene and cornering the gunman, ultimately ending the crisis with minimal casualties.

Once the area was secured, Fort Carson firefighters were escorted into the school to provide medical assistance and evacuate the victims. Those injured were processed through medical staging and then those requiring further medical attention were taken to Evans Army Community Hospital.

The exercise afforded the fire department an opportunity to test procedures in an effort to improve the services they provide and improve interaction with the other agencies, said Fort Carson Fire Chief Glen Silloway.

"You want to make the mistake on the training ground instead of in real life," he said.