Prepared for anything

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gene McLaurin, 36th Security Forces Squadron, searches for additional threats after an active shooter was neutralized during an emergency management exercise May 11, 2017, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. When known active shooters are no longer a threat, SFS Airmen clear the building to ensure the area is safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gene McLaurin, 36th Security Forces Squadron, searches for additional threats after an active shooter was neutralized during an emergency management exercise May 11, 2017, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. When known active shooters are no longer a threat, SFS Airmen clear the building to ensure the area is safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Twice a year, members of the 82nd Security Forces Squadron perform training that simulates an active shooter. This year, they got some unexpected but real life training during their exercise. 

Using wax bullets filled with a laundry detergent-like substance, defenders simulate an active shooter situation, where they must neutralize the shooter as fast as possible.

 “In an active shooter situation, you’re obviously going to confront the gunman and get into a gunfight,” said Tech. Sgt. Jered Dauterman, 82nd SFS NCO in charge of training. “The wax bullets definitely hurt and leave a welt. We use simulated munitions to induce stress and teach them how to operate in a stressful environment where they could get injured or in the real life situation, killed.”

The sting of a wax bullets gives defenders incentive to take cover when taking fire and helps them better understand the speed, surprise and violence of action principals. It’s used all across the Air Force and there is an extremely low chance of injury beyond a welt.

Senior Airman Justin Sawyers, 80th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, volunteered to act as the shooter for the training. He used the same simulated munitions as the defenders and was told to try to give them the most realistic scenario possible.

“I got hit twice on top of the head by wax bullets shot by a defender,” said Sawyers. “I knew there was a little blood but didn’t realize how much there was until the exercise was called cold and I pulled off my protective facemask.”

Sawyers looked down at his mask, which was covered in his blood from the wound.

“It bled more than you would think,” said Sawyers.

Being the Self Aid Buddy Care trainer and unit trainer for 82nd SFS, Officer Georgia McCullough along with Dauterman immediately started to treat Sawyers for his wounds.

“They both reacted very quickly and professionally,” said Sawyers. “I wouldn’t have known what to do and they were able to stop the bleeding fast.”

After realizing that Sawyers had only minor injuries, McCullough and Dauterman used the opportunity to show their Airmen a realistic example of SABC being applied.

“We were in an old basement so we got a bucket and rinsed his head and after we rinsed it, we saw it was just two little nicks,” McCullough said. “They got to see many other stages of treatment other than just the usual ‘this guy is bleeding.’”

According to Dauterman, in a real life active shooter situation once the shooter is neutralized, aid would be rendered to them, which further shows how this exercise was more realistic than normal.

“The point of use of force is to neutralize the threat and gain compliance, not just to kill,” said McCullough.

Another reason first responders render aid to neutralized targets is to potentially gain intel about additional active threats.

McCullough seized this opportunity to further train the defenders.

“Most active shooters premeditate the shooting, that’s why they have the advantage and we don’t,” she said. “We have to be ready for any situation at any time and that includes head injuries.”

Sawyers was treated so well and fast by McCullough and Dauterman that he wasn’t even taken off flight status and could have returned to work that evening for his shift. He also praised the effectiveness of the defenders during the exercise.

“Oh they are definitely good,” he said. “I was neutralized by the defenders very quickly.”