“Exercise, exercise, exercise: SWAT is arriving on the scene.” While listening to the radio chatter throughout the drill, the pretense of the announcements and instructions would be the only giveaway the crisis was not real.
Naval Air Station Whiting Field (NASWF), currently participating in its annual Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield, an anti-terrorism/force protection exercise, began on February 18 continuing through the 28, performed a “active shooter” drill on Thursday. The exercises, coordinated by Commander, US Fleet Forces and Commander, Navy Installations Command are designed to enhance the training and readiness of Navy security forces to respond to threats against installations and units. LTJG Stephen Pakola, security officer, said readiness against an active shooter and someone coming into the base with unauthorized access encompasses a wide range of responders. In the action of the drill, Santa Rosa County SWAT and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), were both present. “We continually remain ready to respond with a wide range of force; a sense of calm handling any type of threat,” he said.
Greg Snyder, base fire inspector, said it is all about dealing with the unknown. “Every situation is different. The first priority is to keep ourselves safe and everyone else safe,” he said. Pakola says Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield are not being held in response to any specific threat or incident. “It gives validation to continual training throughout the year, putting to the test what we’ve learned,” he said.
In a real case scenario, Pakola said all base personnel would be told to stop what they’re doing. Stop moving around. No one would be driving on the road, no one walking to the gym. They would push the information to everyone by test, phone, computer, and through the mass notification system. “We will get the word out about the opposing force,” he said.
Thursday’s scenario was a person broke through gate security and broke into a classroom setting, taking hostages. Inside the auditorium there was audible gun fire and an explosion causing mass casualties. Pakola said SRC SWAT has an agreement with NASWF for response to any type of incident on base.
“They’re trained for that,” he said. “We don’t have negotiators on board.”