CAMP MABRY, Texas – As the sound of blanks fired in the hallway, personnel ran out, jumped through windows or sought cover from the active shooter coming through their workspace. Fortunately, this was only a training exercise held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 19, 2014.
The training scenario was designed to help Camp Mabry’s security department better coordinate with the Austin Police Department’s Counter Assault Strike Team (CAST), as well as prepare the base’s employees should anything like this ever occur.
Sandi Valdespino, a civilian case manager with the Texas Medical Command, felt this was a great exercise not only to prepare the personnel here, but also to make them aware of the realistic threat.
“People always down play things like this, especially since we’re on a base working side by side with military members,” Valdespino said. “It’s important for us to know what to do. The knowledge gained here will empower them greatly.”
Valdespino also shared how a fellow employee took the training seriously and physically put planned escape measures to the test.
“When the exercise started, we all ran into my office and closed the door as previously planned,” Valdespino continued. “Right then, Sgt. Ahmad Ofogh began to actually drag a large filing cabinet to block the door. He said he wanted to see if he could actually physically do it if the time came.”
The exercise put Camp Mabry’s security officers to the test as well; they are the first response for any type of emergency on the installation. Officer Ian McPherson, day shift supervisor, knows training like this is crucial for his team.
“The realism of the training helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses,” McPherson said. “We know it’s just pretend, but it got our blood pumping and adrenaline up. Working with CAST added another level of reality, which also allowed us to have an outside organization critique our tactics so that we can either better them or reinforce what we were doing well.”
By days end, Austin Police Department’s CAST and Camp Mabry security officers and employees went through seven scenarios, each time discovering new ways to react to an active shooter event. Spc. Danielle Schrag, a case manager with Texas Medical Command, describes the value this has for everyone involved.
“To see the CAST and our security officers go through these scenarios together is comforting,” Schrag said. “It not only gives me confidence in their abilities to respond to an active shooter, but makes us, the employees, aware of something like this happening; and therefore better respond and help ourselves till they arrive.”