Hanscom SFS continues critical relationship with State Troopers
By Capt. Geoff Buteau, 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 19, 2009
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. --
Hanscom security forces Airmen received specialized tactical training as part of an ongoing partnership with the Massachusetts State Police Special Tactical Operations team. The training, which took place in the dormitories, offered instruction on handling active-shooter scenarios.
This is the second time the STOP team visited the Airmen of the 66th Security Forces Squadron this year. The first training session was in March and dealt with general tactics. This time, the Massachusetts State Police Troopers taught the Airmen specifically how to deal with an unstable person with a firearm threatening people in a confined area.
The Columbine High School and Virginia Tech massacres of 1999 and 2007, respectively, are examples of active-shooter scenarios that escalated, causing a combined 44 fatalities and wounding many more.
"Any interaction with outside law enforcement organizations is a positive interaction for us," said Tech. Sgt. William Boyden, the noncommissioned officer in charge of training . But the real goal for the 66 SFS during this training was to use the foundation of ground combat skills the Airmen have from their deployments and parlay that into a "law-enforcement response" to situations like that of an active shooter.
Sergeant Boyden said the training is beneficial for the Airmen because it is developed from the wealth of experience the troopers have in the field. "Why would we create it when they already have the lesson plan?"
That lesson plan comprises classroom lessons in the morning followed by field exercises in the dorms in the afternoon.
The dorms provided a setting that simulated an office building or school, which have multiple corridors, rooms and stairwells. These are places where active shooters have run rampant before, said Trooper Jim O'Donnell, one of the eight members of the STOP team conducting the small-group training for the Airmen.
In one training scenario, four 66 SFS Airmen entered the building to respond to a man with a firearm who had just lost his job and his girlfriend, and as a result was threatening to kill himself and others. A few feet outside the door, the Airmen tried to negotiate with him.
That training scenario ended when Trooper Joe Recine, playing the distraught gunman, began ignoring the Airmen's requests to put down his weapon, fired Simunition shots at the team, and tried to flee the building.
The troopers have additional active-shooter courses, including an intermediate and an expert training. "So to maintain a relationship with the Massachusetts State Police is in everybody's interests at Hanscom," Sergeant Boyden said.
For the 17 Massachusetts State Troopers who are part of the STOP team, and regularly train local, state and federal agencies, the courses they teach ultimately make their job easier, said Trooper Jeff Lenti, a member of team training the Airmen. Since the STOP team not only trains, but also responds to events requiring special police tactics throughout Massachusetts, having other organizations trained to end an active-shooter situation before these troopers can arrive could mean the difference between tragedy and triumph.
Trooper Lenti said sometimes he sees military police organizations that don't consider themselves a traditional police organization, "but when you talk to these guys, they run into the same exact things as all the local police departments do that are around here."
"I wouldn't categorize these guys just as military because they're police officers - they're not military acting as police, but police officers," he said.
The 63 security forces Airmen who went through the training learned how to negotiate with and talk down an unstable assailant, avoid getting pinned down on the stairs, and travel throughout the building using a four-person diamond formation, where the team works together to see 360 degrees around them.
In addition to communication being another key point taught in the training sessions, good communication -- between the two organizations -- was another result of the training.
Senior Airman John Reed, standardization evaluator at the 66 SFS, who credited the class for improving the quickness of his and others' decision making, reaction time and ability to identify enemies, said he would be better prepared for communicating with state police officers if he has to work with them in the future.
"Some commands we talked about were 'contact and cover,' which for them is making contact with people and hand-cuffing them, whereas 'contact' and 'cover' for us means we're getting shot at and to take cover," he said.
To continue better communication, relationships and tactics, both Trooper Lenti and Sergeant Boyden have plans to continue the training into the intermediate and expert courses.
"That's my goal," said Sergeant Boyden. He and Trooper Lenti have discussed the STOP team coming back next year or in a few months. "We now have a base line that we can move forward with, so we can train for more unique situations, or difficult tactics that require more difficult training."