By Capt. Thomas Cieslak/16th MP Bde. PAODecember 3, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - It's a chilling thought; an armed co-worker who comes to work ready to kill, sits in a car packed with chemicals and explosives in a crowded parking, ready to destroy everything and everyone around it. What should you do' What will you do'
Employees at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command headquarters recently faced this scenario in an unannounced force protection exercise designed to test the workforce's reaction to deadly scenarios.
"The majority of the workers reacted very well," said Thomas Nelson, installation force protection officer with Fort Bragg's Directorate of Emergency Services. "Most sheltered in place, locked doors, called in report to 911 what they saw and heard. Those who were curious and looked down hallways were shot. Those who froze and got caught in the open were shot."
The active shooter scenario was the first large scale exercise of its kind held in the highly secured building. It was the result of close cooperation between USASOC's force protection managers and Fort Bragg garrisons force protection cell and first responder.
"USASOC wrote the scenario and acted as the control group while the garrison's force protection team added the realism by providing role players, observer and controllers and safeties," said Don Mollett, who works with Nelson. "This realism forced the worker to react to what they would see in real life. There was someone walking through the building shooting blanks at people, security forces reacted, doors closed, law enforcement teams entered the building and medical teams reacted. You need this realism to gauge how people would react ... "
This exercise also validated USASOC headquarters' force protection standard operating procedures and training. Classes held weeks prior to the exercise taught the workers what to do, when and how to exit the building, who to call and what to report.
"The reports were critical on helping law enforcement agencies enter, identify, locate and neutralize the shooter," Nelson added. "Numerous employees and the security forces inside the building called Fort Bragg's 911 Center and kept first responders abreast of what was happening."
Once the shooter was killed and law enforcement agencies identified him, it was discovered that his car was missing. An all points bulletin was sent out to military and civilian law enforcement agencies to locate the car. A Fort Bragg MP patrol located the vehicle and reported it.
"When the car was inspected the MPs found explosives and chemicals packed throughout it," said Dean DeMark, Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear, Explosives program manager at DES. "We used the Times Square bombing incident for this scenario. This allowed us to coordinate the tactics and procedures of Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Fort Bragg Fire Department's HAZMAT teams in neutralizing the threat."
Coordination between Fort Bragg elements, said Demark, would be key to accomplishing the mission and keeping residents safe.
"For the exercise, as we would if this were real-world incidents, we used our Giant Voice system to quickly let people on post know what was happening and what they should do to stay safe. We used our AM radio station, AM 1700 to also keep people informed and our six electronic flashing signs located near our major access control points. The more we use these, the more people will become accustomed to turning to them for information."
By training to protect those who protect America, Fort Bragg's Military Police and Directorate of Emergency Services stand ready to respond to any situation.