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Wright-Patterson AFB commander: last year's chaotic active shooter scare made the base 'better'
One year after an active shooter scare plunged Wright-Patterson Air Force Base into hours of chaos, the military installation's leader is hoping more technology and better communication will prevent such a situation from repeating itself.
As the one year anniversary of the false alarm approaches Friday, Wright-Patt will again be conducting emergency exercises. The weeklong training started Monday.
After the active shooter incident last August, a review board's recommendations have been implemented in the hopes of avoiding a similar scare, said Col. Tom Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander.
"We need to use what happened not as something that defines us, but something that makes us better," Sherman said. "I think that we're going into this better than we were at this time last year."
The confusion last August stemmed from two exercises, including an active shooter drill taking place at the Kitty Hawk Chapel and a mass casualty exercise the 88th Medical Group held at the Wright-Patt Medical Treatment Facility, according to the report.
The confusion resulted in a military service member discharging multiple rounds of ammunition from an assault rifle. The "poorly planned and executed" base exercises caused a chaotic response to the August false alarm, according to a report about the incident released in December.
An uncoordinated response from law enforcement in August could have resulted in "serious injury and property damage" and terrified staff and civilians in a hospital filled with "fog and friction," the report stated.
Active shooter false alarms are not uncommon on military installations. But, a Dayton Daily News investigation found that few others unfolded like the one at Wright-Patt did.
When the Aug. 2 active shooter scare occurred, it resulted in local, state and federal law enforcement responding to the base. Law enforcement could be seen clustered just outside base gates a year ago as the scene unfolded.
Now, if off-base authorities are called they will know to respond to a specific "staging area" for emergencies, Sherman said.
Since the false alarm, Sherman said the base has added to the radio systems it uses so it can better communicate with outside law enforcement. Wright-Patt has also linked its emergency systems with 911 call centers so the base is sharing information with the appropriate dispatch locations throughout the area.
"That sense of shared consciousness that we built into this, what that does is that allows for the ability to make deliberate response procedures based on how the situation is evolving," Sherman said. "That's really the goal from this."
Though the base will look to avoid the chaos of last August, traffic around Wright-Patt could be impacted throughout the week. Base gates and roads may occasionally be backup up or closed during exercises, according to a release.
Base personnel and nearby residents will likely hear sirens or a voice over a Wright-Patt loudspeaker. But, the voice and other communications that are part of the drill will start with the word "exercise," being repeated three times. Sherman said.
During training, base personnel will "be called upon to respond to a variety of emergency scenarios," according to Wright-Patt. Included in the training will be a search and recovery exercise and force protection condition changes, according to the base.
Base inspectors, wearing bright-yellow reflective vests, will evaluate the response to the exercise events throughout the week. The training is part of a set of quarterly exercises performed to meet annual Air Force requirements, according to Wright-Patt.
"Through preparedness, we can collectively work on any emergency, any situation together," Sherman said. "I think that what this does is it increases that faith that we have in the community and that the community has in us."
©2019 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
On April 11, 1966, Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger (played by Jeremy Irvine) responded to a call to evacuate casualties belonging to a company with the Army's 1st Infantry Division near Cam My during a deadly ambush, the result of a search and destroy mission dubbed Operation Abilene.
In the ensuing battle, the unit suffered more than 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached. Despite the dangers on the ground, Pitsenbarger refused to leave the soldiers trapped in the jungle and waved off the medevac chopper, choosing to fight, and ultimately die, alongside men he'd never met before that day.
Decades later, those men fought to see Pitsenbarger's Air Force Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On Dec. 8, 2000, they won, when Pitsenbarger was posthumously awarded the nation's highest decoration for valor.
The Last Full Measure painstakingly chronicles that long desperate struggle, and the details of the battle are told in flashbacks by the soldiers who survived the ambush, played by a star-studded cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.
After Operation Abilene, some of the men involved moved on with their lives, or tried to, and the film touches on the many ways they struggled with their grief, trauma, and in the case of some, feelings of guilt. For the characters in The Last Full Measure, seeing Pitsenbarger awarded the Medal of Honor might be the one decent thing they pull out of that war, remarks Jackson's character, Lt. Billy Takoda, one of the soldier's whose life Pitsenbarger saved.
There are a lot of threads to follow in The Last Full Measure, individual strands of a larger story that feel misplaced, redacted, or cut short — at times, violently. But this is not a criticism, quite the opposite in fact. This tangled web is part of the larger narrative at play as Scott Huffman, a fictitious modern-day Pentagon bureaucrat played by Sebastian Stan, tries to piece together what actually happened that fateful day so many years ago.
At the start, Huffman — the person who ultimately becomes Pitsenbarger's champion in Washington — wants nothing to do with the airman's story, the medal, or the Vietnam veterans who want to see his sacrifice recognized. For Huffman, it's a burdensome assignment, just one more box to check before he can move on to brighter and better career prospects. Not surprising then that Pentagon bureaucrats and Washington political operators are regarded with skepticism throughout the movie.
When Takoda first meets Huffman, the Army vet grills the overdressed and out-of-his-depth government flack about his intentions, calls him an FNG (fucking new guy) and tosses Huffman's recorder into the nearby river where he's fishing with his grandkids.
Sebastian Stan stars as Scott Huffman alongside Samuel Jackson as Billy Takoda in "The Last Full Measure."(IMDB)
As Huffman spends more time with the grunts who fought alongside Pitsenbarger, and the Air Force PJs who flew with him that day, he, and the audience, come to see their campaign, and their frustration over the lack of progress, in a different light.
In one of the movie's later moments, The Last Full Measure offers an explanation for why Pitsenbarger's award languished for so long. The theory? Pitsenbarger's Medal of Honor citation was downgraded to a service cross, not because his actions didn't meet the standard associated with the nation's highest award for valor, but because his rank didn't.
"The conjecture among the Mud Soldiers and Bien Hoa Eagles is that Pitsenbarger was passed over because he was enlisted," Robinson, who wrote and directed The Last Full Measure, told Task & Purpose.
"As for the events in the film, Pitsenbarger's upgrade was clearly ignored for decades and items had been lost — whether that was deliberate is up for discussion but we feel we captured the spirit of the issues at hand either way," he said. "Some of these questions are simply impossible to answer with 100% certainty as no one really knows."
The cynicism in The Last Full Measure is overt, but to be entirely honest, it feels warranted. While watching the film, I couldn't help but think back to recent stories of battlefield bravery, like that of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who ran into a burning Bradley three times in Iraq to pull out his wounded men — a feat of heroism that cost him his life, and inspired an ongoing campaign to see Cashe awarded the Medal of Honor.
There's no shortage of op-eds by current and former service members who see the military's awards process as slow and cumbersome at best, and biased or broken at worst, and it's refreshing to see that criticism reflected in a major war movie. And sure, like plenty of military dramas, The Last Full Measure has some sappy moments, but on the whole, it's a damn good film.
The Last Full Measure hits theaters on Jan. 24.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
The Defense Department just took a major step towards making the dream of a flying drone carrier a reality.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's air-launched and recoverable X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle finally conducted a maiden flight in November 2019, Gremlin contractor Dynetics announced on Friday.