MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
The loud crack of simulated gunfire rang out Aug. 26 in the headquarters building here as air station officials, emergency responders and personnel conducted a long-planned active-shooter exercise.
During the exercise, emergency response teams responded to a mock scenario at building HQ-1, securing the perimeter and clearing the headquarters while searching for threats. The exercise was designed by the Mission Assurance Department to test Cherry Point’s emergency preparedness program and response procedures, according to Grant D. DeHaven, the Cherry Point mission assurance department program manager.
“Our overall goal was to validate active-shooter response plans and lockdown plans for workplaces … upon receipt of an emergency mass notification,” said DeHaven. In other words, it wasn’t just a test of emergency responders – it also tested the response of personnel who work in the building.
Planning for the active-shooter exercise has been quietly going on for months and was facilitated by Marine Corps Regional Exercise Team East. The exercise allowed leadership at Cherry Point and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing to lay the groundwork for rapid-response in the event of an active-shooter incident at the air station.
Marine leaders who occupy the office spaces at the headquarters building have active-shooter response plans. Several other organizations at Cherry Point, including the Naval Health Clinic, commissary, exchange and Child Development Center, also activated their active-shooter response plans during the exercise.
The exercise gave the Marines, Sailors and civilians who work at the 2nd MAW and Cherry Point headquarters a chance to rehearse for an emergency scenario, which is especially important in light of several recent shootings at military installations across the United States, said DeHaven. Though service members and government employees at Cherry Point train annually for a variety of emergencies, the chance to rehearse on a large scale helped Cherry Point and 2nd MAW leadership validate its planning and response procedures.
“Prior to the exercise, each individual (headquarters building) office developed active shooter response plans and conducted internal training, which was not a requirement,” said DeHaven. “Yet by demonstrating the success of these plans through this exercise, we hope to demonstrate best practices for the Marine Corps. Even though each active-shooter event is different and will clearly create stress, our goal is to reduce uncertainty in how to react and save lives. The best way to do this is by training people in their workspace, not in a classroom.”
After the exercise, each leader involved with active-shooter response planning conducted an after-action review of the scenario and the emergency response. According to James D. Riemer, Cherry Point’s director of operations, the leadership identified areas for improvement and highlighted the overall success of the plan to respond rapidly and effectively in case of an active shooting at the air station.
“I’m very happy that the whole planning process leading up to the exercise accomplished the things that the air station commanding officer wanted to accomplish,” said Riemer. “It caused a more realistic awareness of active-shooter situations and it increased everyone’s awareness of the threat.”