Findings from a command-directed investigation regarding an installation-wide active shooter exercise conducted Aug. 2 were announced Dec. 19 by Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The active shooter exercise was planned and executed at the Kittyhawk Chapel with role players simulating casualties. At roughly the same time period, the 88th Medical Group held an internal, separate exercise at Wright-Patterson Medical Center to test its mass casualty response procedures.
During the course of the two exercises, confusion on the part of several units caused subsequent reactions by multiple internal organizations and led to a mutual aid response from surrounding communities and state and national entities, according to the report.
The independent investigation made broad, wide-ranging recommendations for consideration that covered many areas. Some recommendations relate to installation-level and internal exercise processes; others related to guidance at both local and higher headquarters levels; and some addressed inter-operability between the installation and state and local responders.
The following three general findings encapsulate the command-directed investigation results:
• The purpose of the Master Scenario Events List, an instrument that guides execution of base exercises, is to ensure those directing the events know when every event will occur and can take preventive action to stop activities when they go off-script. Having multiple exercises occurring in close proximity that were not on the MSEL created the conditions for confusion to occur. While realism is important in training exercises, all personnel must always be fully aware of exercise versus real-world situations. Coordinating with all concerned organizations and then adhering to the agreed-upon plan is essential to keeping everyone fully aware.
• An M-4 rifle was fired to breach a locked door that could not be opened with a key card. The Air Force Office of Special Investigation conducted a separate investigation on this specific action. The findings of this AFOSI report were referred to the member’s commander.
In addition to these findings, this CDI determined the use of this weapon in these circumstances was inappropriate. All personnel must adhere to weapons safety training at all times – especially during high-pressure situations.
• A breakdown of communication led to a completely uncoordinated and ineffective combined response that could have resulted in serious injury or property damage. A thorough understanding between federal, state and local agencies about command and control to include understanding jurisdiction and response procedures needs to be established.
Ultimately the situation was resolved with minimal property damage and one minor injury to an 88th Security Forces Squadron Airman from the weapon discharge.
Disclosing the complete and independent review findings honors a commitment Sherman made immediately following the incidents of Aug. 2 to the 88 ABW, the men and women of Wright-Patterson AFB and the local communities to share what has been learned. While every effort is being made to be as transparent as possible, some information cannot be disclosed due because it would expose vulnerabilities, he said.
“My intent was to fully discover and understand the facts of the incident so we could make necessary changes,” Sherman said. “As the installation commander, the safety and security of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is my responsibility. We have already begun developing these concerns into lessons learned and are sharing them with other organizations and other installations.”