Two gate-runners blew past the barrier gate at Naval Air Station Fallon’s main entrance on Tuesday, hell bent in causing as much mayhem as they could.
After the shootout in one of the air station’s three-story buildings, the two assailants, along with several other sailors and civilians, lay dead. Staged at Hangar 2, the Federal Fire Department moved into place on the parking lot, setting up an incident command and triage to assist the wounded.
For those involved in the Tuesday morning incident, this was a local drill falling under Citadel Shield, an exercise to test the base’s preparedness if an incident such as this would occur.
“These drills are in response to a couple of incidents that involved armed personnel at military installations,” said Chris Pierce, NAS Fallon’s training officer.
He briefly explained two cases of shootings involving the military that have occurred during the past five-and-a-half years.
“Fort Hood (Texas) for the Army and the Washington Navy Yard (D.C.) had a significant impact on our security process,” Pierce noted.
In November 2009 at Fort Hood, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army psychiatrist, fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others. Almost two years later on Sept. 16, 2013, lone gunman Aaron Alexis fatally shot 12 people and injured three at the Navy yard.
Pierce said this year’s NAS Fallon drill was the most thoroughly scripted scenario developed by his team.
Ensign Mike Roster, a construction battalion engineer for Public Works who portrayed a shooter, commended the Security Force (SF).
“They did a good job securing the threat, and at the same time, promoting some readiness in our building,” he said. “It was an eye-opener for the civilians in the building.”
Although he was one of the bad guys, Roster said he was glad the drill ended but happy security won.
One of the victims stretched out along a short flight of stairs said he was excited to be part of the training.
“This training is very invaluable and (the situation) can happen at any given time,” said ABF3 Joshua Rist. “This hones our skills and how to respond.”
“These drills are not only for the Security Force but also for the people who work on base,” Pierce added. “They need to know how to react to an active threat. Our security and training officials talk to the different offices on base”
Pierce said military civilians and contractors must undergo annual training to be aware of active threats. He said these drills are also good for anyone who works for a business or school and could be placed into a similar situation.
While Citadel Shield focuses on a local situation, another exercise, Solid Curtain, involved Navy installations within the contiguous United States.
“We kicked it off this year for the Navy,” Pierce said, explaining how a stop at the main gate revealed in a car’s trunk several book on bomb making. NAS Fallon then notified naval operations in San Diego, which raised the THREATCON (threat condition) to a higher level after receiving additional information from other installations. After receiving information about a “house” in Churchill County storing weapons that could be used against the Navy, the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team simulated a raid on the residence.
(The actual raid on the house was conducted on Jan. 22 and videotaped for Tuesday’s notification to San Diego.)
“We used the fire-pit training house as a simulated location (for the county house). We shot video, edited it and then sent it to San Diego,” Pierce said.
The raid revealed that the “bad guys” — actually played by NAS Fallon Security Forces personnel — were part of a homegrown terrorist cell.
Sailors from the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) assisted in the raid as the SWAT team discovered a cache of weapons, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), maps, charts and directions for San Diego naval installations.
CCSO Sheriff Ben Trotter said his SWAT team enjoys receiving real-world training, and the Navy drill provided a good experience for his deputies.
Putting together two scenarios, which began almost eight months ago, becomes a team effort, Pierce said. ABE1 Oscar Valasquez, QM2 Timothy Kidd, MA1 Chad Bell and MA1 Jean Yusten planned the scenarios.
“We all sat down and discussed what we wanted to do,” Pierce said. “It was based on past lessons learned, and we didn’t want to make the same mistakes.”
And then to add a touch of realism, MC1 Joseph Vincent, a journalist with the Public Affairs office, videotaped the raid and made fake identification cards.
Pierce said he was proud of how the different organizations clicked together.
“From Fed Fire, EOD, the regional dispatchers in San Diego, the CCSO, the Child Development Center, the SFs, personnel in the EOC (emergency operations center) and the volunteers from Fleet Liaison, everyone stepped up,” Pierce added.