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Preparing for the worst at Fort Irwin
Base conducts active shooter training to hone response skills
FORT IRWIN • Sgt. Robert Nolan sat propped against a pole moaning and screaming for medics to work faster as red fake blood oozed from the simulated gunshot wound on his arm on Tuesday.
Nolan and 16 other soldiers were “injured” by an active shooter during their morning physical training exercises as part of Fort Irwin’s emergency response simulation. The exercise brought together the installation’s police, fire and medical personnel along with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s SWAT team.
“You must train, you must prepare and you must look at the worst case scenario so you can provide for the well being and safety of your community,” said Col. Richard “Flip” Wilson. “I think that is critical. And I tell you what, I’m really confident that the leaders have done all they can to prevent this from happening.”
Carmen Cortina, a security manager at the Goldstone Complex, played the role of one of two active shooters. Cortina and the other actors quickly moved from the first scene of the crime at Army Field to the Fort Irwin Lewis Elementary School where a hostage situation was simulated.
“I think this is something every parent worries about and especially being on the Fort, every leader,” Cortina said. “This is their fastest, their first line to respond so it’s better that they know what their strengths are and how to improve.”
Sgt. 1st Class John Antes was responsible for organizing the exercise and said that the installation is required to conduct an emergency response simulation at least once a year. The hospital is also required to do a mass casualty exercise semi-annually, he said.
“After the events of Sandy Hook in Connecticut, everybody wanted to train at schools,” Antes said.
Wilson said the exercise helps to solidify the rules of engagement among the first responders and especially when bringing in an outside agency like the county SWAT team.
“How do you bring in an external agency to your installation?” Wilson asked rhetorically. “Who is responsible for what? You can’t do that over paper or the telephone. It is better to actually have a vignette or scenario where adrenaline is pumping.”
The day’s events also included a press conference at the Visitor’s Center where the entrance of the installation is located. Counselors from the Red Cross were also brought in from San Bernardino to work with Fort Irwin’s counseling staff to practice speaking with affected and traumatized witnesses, Antes said.