Naval Air Station Fallon bristled with activity on Tuesday when both military and civilian law enforcement personnel responded to two threat situations on the base.
One incident involved a stabbing in base housing, while an active shooter took aim at the chapel located due east of the administration building.
In each of of these scenarios, responders worked together to neutralize the assailants and restore normalcy at the air station.
Scores of first responders participated in the annual Citadel Shield exercise, a Navy-wide Citadel Shield, an extensive drill to test each Navy base’s preparedness if an incident such as this were to happen.
NAS Fallon training officer Chris Pierce said responders from the Fallon Police Department, Churchill County Sheriff’s Office and Nevada Highway Patrol linked up with the air station’s security forces to restore calm, while paramedics from Banner Churchill Community Hospital, Federal Fire Department, Humboldt County and Care Flight, along with sailors from Search and Rescue, transported the injured victims.
“We did a lot of training to the active shooter threat,” Pierce said, as he prepared for an after-action review of the morning activities.
Pierce said the base conducts general military training at the chapel and earlier in the day after he presented a video and PowerPoint presentation on potentially dangers situations, shots rang out. Many sailors in attendance for the informational briefing became participants in the drill, not realizing they would also be active role players.
The beginning of the morning’s exercise caught many by surprise, and that’s the way Pierce wanted the base’s drill to unfold.
Throughout the morning, local law enforcement arrived at NAS Fallon to support air station personnel. Pierce said the severely injured people received the needed medical attention. Air and ground assets wielded into action, all in the name of a drill.
“We hope it never happens, but it is better to be prepared.” Pierce said.
NAS Fallon has routinely practiced active-shooter drills since the deadly incidences at Fort Hood (Texas) in 2009 and the Washington Navy Yard (D.C.), but recent events have occurred at a Tennessee recruiting station and reserve center that left five dead and the San Bernardino massacre that resulted in 14 deaths.
“We don’t want anything like that to happen here,” Pierce said, “but its better for us to be prepared — if it does because we are isolated up here.”
In planning the scenario that also included the hijacking of a bus carrying military dependents on Wednesday and firemen responding to a hazardous material situation later that night at the airport, Pierce said his team devised realistic scenarios.
“I have the best group of people who deserve the credit,” he added.
Cmdr. James Shell, executive officer of NAS Fallon, said the annual drills are important to train Navy personnel and also to integrate with the local responders to situations that could occur on the base or within the community. He said communication is critical for responders to perform their missions correctly and quickly because of the drill’s complexity.
“We make it challenging for our personnel and responders,” Shell said.
Wednesday’s drill involving military dependents occurred outside the air station. Rescuing the hostages provided real-world training to the combined SWAT team consisting of the Fallon Police Department and Churchill County Sheriff’s Office.
As he watched the SWAT team conduct its mission, CCSO Capt. Mike Matheson said the training is important.
“Their movement will become second nature for them,” he said, adding the drill provides them with an actual situation if it were to happen.
During the two days the CCSO participated in the Citadel Shield exercise, Matheson said the local law enforcement officers worked well with the Navy and showed that all agencies can work together to achieve a common goal.
Capt. Ron Wenger, who supervised training for the Fallon Police Department, said invaluable lessons are learned when participating in a major drill such as Citadel Shield. He said the scenarios gave an actual insight that law enforcement personnel could face either here in Fallon or elsewhere where there is a military installation.
“Everybody was pleased with the way it went down,” he said.