by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — This year the active-shooter training that the 21st Security Forces Squadron routinely practices has reached the 10-day course for Airmen who support, or augment, the base police. The augmentees have to be readily usable in every situation, SFS trainers said.
Since the November shooting on Fort Hood Army installation in Texas, base policing has moved to include preparation for active shooters. And those Airmen, who are sometimes called to assist the SFS called augmentees, must also know how to react.
“We expect them to have the ability to make split-second decisions, just like us,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Marshall, 21st SFS who heads up the augmentee training on Peterson AFB.
Every other month, a group of Airmen from all career fields is called to SFS augmentee training. They get weapons training, learn how to conduct building searches, learn hand-cuffing procedures, and learn how to make high-risk traffic stops. It’s a program that dates back at least 20 years. But, times have changed and SFS augmentees are training for new threats, including a scenario where an active shooter gets onto the installation.
“We are trying to get out of the mindset that the augmentees just fill the gap for security,” Sergeant Marshall said. “Moving with a weapon, that is the biggest thing. Actually, moving while you are shooting is a whole new dimension.”
Training, then, has become more hands on. In the past, augmentees spent a day shooting M16s at a range. Now, they are practicing moving through buildings and shooting at moving targets.
“The main goal for me, is I want to prepare them for what I know they will be doing out there,” Sergeant Marshall said.
In May, for the first time, Airmen conducted a building search, using M16s, where electronic targets were set to pop up on them throughout the building. They had to take down the targets and clear the building.
Staff Sgt. Matt Harrell, 21st Operations Support Squadron, was part of a four-person team sent into Building 1376. They knew there was an “active shooter” inside but didn’t know how many people were down. Using the techniques they learned in class, the team moved slowly around each corner. Sergeant Harrell entered a room, saw a target and shot. “Clear,” he yelled.
“That is one of the biggest things that has changed in our training, as far as dealing with an active shooter and responding to a crisis situation at a moment’s notice,” Sergeant Marshall said. “We give them a weapon for a reason, they need to know how to use it and when to use it.”
Inside the classroom, the Airmen will learn some verbal judo — or tactical communication — and fighting techniques. Sergeant Marshall, who has been providing the augmentee training for the past five months, said he wants Airmen to feel what it’s like to be in verbally hostile situation and learn to defuse it.
Outside the classroom, the Airmen study the high-risk locations on base and ride with a veteran patrol officer for one week.
Once trained, augmentees can be called at any time over the next year to assist security forces for exercise or real world operations.
“This is the priority,” Sergeant Marshall said. “They’ve got to come in and check in with us. We give them their gear and flight chiefs give them their assignments.”