Active shooter exercise teams base, local law enforcement

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
Last week's basewide emergency management exercise began July 26 with gunshots and piercing yells. Four assailants, armed with AR-15 assault rifles, barged through the front doors of Bldg. 767, popped off blank rounds and herded more than a dozen hostages into a small room.

"Get down all of you - let's go!" "Do what I say ... Now!"

Once exits were secured throughout the two-story building, the simulated training scenario began to take on a life of its own.

Aubrey Pearce, an active shooter dressed comfortably in a T-shirt, shorts and sneakers, was repeatedly on the phone throughout the morning with a hostage negotiator. As tempers flared at one point during a brief conversation - involving the delivery of three boxes of pizza - the final words he heard weren't pretty.

"Where's my pizza?!" Pearce, a 78th Medical Group mental health technician, screeched into the phone. When it didn't arrive, another perpetrator walked toward the front entrance, grabbed a hostage, and fired off several rounds - the end result when a gunman doesn't get what he wants.

Blank rounds of bullets lay strewn across the entire first floor, while remnants of the smoke from gunfire hung in the air.

The scenario involved a disgruntled employee who entered a facility with weapons, with officers quickly responding to neutralize the situation two-and-a-half hours later.

"These exercises are important because they allow us to plan ahead," said Master Sgt. Paul Jordan, with the 78th Air Base Wing Exercise Program Office. "It allows us to see what holes we may have so we can update our plans, and it gives us practice dealing with various situations."

Pearce agreed.

"This gives the people involved better skills if there was a real-world event," he said. "I feel phone negotiations are the best part of the exercise because service members get the first calls before handoff to a negotiator.

"With recent national events, I feel it's very important to have our defenders' skills sharp and ready to go in an emergency," he added.

The exercises are part of a multi-agency partnership between Robins Air Force Base, the Houston County Sheriff's Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. This is the second time in the last year local law enforcement has trained with the base, which provides opportunities to assess skills in the event they are put to use in a real-world environment.

"Mainly our training involves weapons, such as long guns and pistols. We keep our shooting skills honed, as well as team movement sharp," said Sgt. James Middlebrooks, Houston County Sheriff's Office Investigations Division. "We do a lot of building clearing, search and rescue, and hostage and barricade situations."

One of Middlebrooks' duties is as a team lead with the Sheriff's Response Team, which includes deputies from not only the sheriff's office, but officers from the Centerville and Perry police departments, and GBI agents.

"Between the base and our side, we realize our weaknesses in certain areas that we need to improve on - and we realize our strong points as well," he said.