LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
For the Department of Defense, one of the biggest threats to security is on the inside: an active shooter that’s trained, willing and able to open fire on fellow service members.
The scenario was the subject of a base wide exercise as part of Scarlet Hawk 18-05, Thursday, Aug. 23, when an Airman, playing the part of a disgruntled military member, walked into Club XL and hypothetically changed the course of Laughlin history forever.
It may not seem possible at first glance, however, Chuck McKaughan, 47th Security Forces Squadron anti-terrorism program manager, describes the crisis as an ever-so-real possibility no matter the place.
To complicate matters, and to drive home the importance of conducting exercises and raising awareness, Kaughan described the mere seconds one must respond to a real-world situation.
“When the warning of an active shooter comes out, what many people are not aware of is that [the crisis] is already happening,” he said. “The active shooter, at that moment, holds all the cards. The defenders and emergency personnel response are purely reactionary.”
Scarlet Hawk 18-05 put the base’s traditional response to the test while implementing newer capabilities, like the ability to help emergency medical services tend to injured victims much faster, and joint-coordinated efforts with local community agencies like the Val Verde Regional Medical Center, the Del Rio Fire Department, and the Border Patrol Tactical Unit.
Even with Laughlin’s newer capabilities, according to Kaughan, it’s vital for all base personnel to respond to a situation with speed and importance, exercise or not.
“There’s two distinct terms the Air Force uses during these situations, it’s ‘shelter-in-place’ and ‘lockdown,’” he said. “The difference is that shelter-in-place, which is a designated room in a facility used to prevent an atmospheric threat from intruding. A lockdown is an immediate threat that requires quick action to protect yourself.”
It’s a distinction in the first few moments of a situation-in-progress that was observed and recorded by Laughlin’s assigned wing inspection teams, or WIT members, like Willard Brown, 47th Wing Staff Agencies chief of wing plans.
“I thought the lockdown procedures went very well as far as people’s energy and personal response,” he said. “I also thought our coordination with off base agencies to respond, turning it into a joint-exercise, was also a positive.”
Brown, along with Kaughan, agree that while the base’s response to Scarlet Hawk 18-05 was good in several respects, they also strive for units to always improve, and never let up or get complacent in their work centers.
“It’s important to be ready for any type of situation,” Brown said. “and it’s all our responsibility to be prepared.”