By Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentOctober 27, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Last year\'s shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, during which alleged gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 12 Soldiers and one civilian, shocked the world.
A day that had begun as nothing outside of typical at the sprawling Central Texas Army post left wives as widows; children without fathers; and a military community with a little less hope, and a little more fear.
Like so much else that has changed in the months since that tragic day, the doctrine for law enforcement training has been modified, and so has the way police officers think.
Soldiers with the 66th Military Police Company are seeing that. Currently immersed in more than a month of training, the company's 2nd Platoon finished up a two-day, hands-on active shooter course Oct. 21 that challenged its Soldiers to analyze every single detail of situations like the Fort Hood massacre.
Part of the usual law enforcement certification military police Soldiers must undergo before patrolling the roads in a stateside assignment, the active shooter course is anything but the usual.
"We're teaching officers to get into a building and locate and stop that threat as soon as it happens," said Lt. Rayvaun Smith, a full-time civilian JBLM police instructor who spends his days training local law enforcement, gate guards and military police units. Smith explained that for the longest time, the role of police officers was to contain a subject until a Special Weapons and Tactics team arrived. Now, he said, that's changing. "At Fort Hood, the officers didn't have time to wait for a SWAT team; SWAT takes two hours to get into place," he said.
In April, Smith travelled to Fort Hood, where the post's chief of police introduced him and several other installation law enforcement representatives from across the country to slightly revamped active shooter training like what's now being seen on JBLM.
The active shooter training here takes law enforcement squads of two or four officers through several different situations during which they clear multiple buildings and apprehend gunmen holding victims in a room. In the final setting, the gunman is holding a victim hostage and attempts to work out a bargain with the squad of police.
It's day two of this training for the 2nd Platoon of the 66th MP Co., and a four-man team has just taken a lone gunman into custody and released five wounded victims he hid with him in a room.
Smith stops the group; this exercise is over.
He begins by telling them exactly where they erred and continues by highlighting their successes.
He recalls the actions of one of the officers on scene at Fort Hood Nov. 5 and a weapons malfunction that could have left her dead.
"When Sgt. Kim Munley shot, she didn't hit her subject," Smith says. "Luckily, there was another officer there. When Munley was shot in the thighs and hand, she had had a malfunction."
"You only have a split second," he urges the Soldiers as they mull this notion over in their heads.
Continuously checking their pistols for readiness to fire, Smith says, is one thing he and his instructors are harping on more than they used to.
They're also directing students to move in differently arranged formations than the singular line movements which had previously been taught.
"The new type of formation puts more firepower in their direction of movement, so they can more effectively eliminate a threat," said Capt. Ranjini Danaraj, commander of the 66th MP Co.
Danaraj is glad to see that the training now involves more scenarios.
"Presenting (the Soldiers) with different scenarios always keeps them thinking," she said. "You're never going to train on the scenario you'll be presented, but it's good knowing they can respond to any situation."
Spc. Anthony Larderuccio doesn't remember much of active shooter training when he was first certified about 18 months ago; he said it wasn't as big a priority.
"I don't think we even did active shooter," he said. "But I think it's a big step for us. The scenarios are really helpful, considering what's been going on at other posts recently."
Malfunctions like the one Munley experienced are what most would refer to as worst-case scenarios.
For the 66th MP Co., worst-case scenarios are now just new obstacles to overcome.
"I'm confident they (the 66th MP Co. Soldiers) have the skills necessary," Smith said. "Would I love to get them in here for longer' Yes. But could they accomplish the mission, and go into a building and take care of a subject like Sergeants Munley and Todd did' I think so."