MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Much like any other Monday morning, on April 17, 2017, the 927th Air Refueling Wing ID card section opened for business. However, this Monday morning at MacDill turned out to be anything but normal.
A man carrying a backpack approached the front desk asking for a new ID card. After a moment, the man became hostile, shouting profanities at the workers and requesting to speak to the commander.
Barging through the halls, he made his way upstairs to the command section where he encountered an executive officer. She attempted to console the angry customer, but her attempts were in vain, and multiple gunshots rang out through the hallways of the second floor.
The gunman then entered Col. Frank Amodeo’s office, and held the 927th ARW commander at gunpoint. Requesting his ID card, the gunman shouted at Amodeo who politely offered to call for assistance. However, Amodeo secretly called 911, kicking off the response of what was to become an active shooter exercise for the 6th Air Mobility Wing.
Minutes later, members from the 6th Security Forces Squadron responded to the 927th ARW headquarters. MacDill entered lockdown, and all personnel participating in the exercise were encouraged to seek shelter and barricade themselves in a secure location.
During the exercise, communication became an integral factor to the speed and safety of the response teams.
“Once the defenders and the emergency services team were dispatched, their response time was very quick,” said Tech. Sgt. Tanya DeHoet, the NCO in charge of standards and evaluations assigned to the 6th SFS. “They identified the gunman after he had taken his own life and conducted a quick sweep of the building within minutes.”
After establishing that the primary threat was under control, the defenders began a “deep clear,” searching through cabinets and closed doors for any information or additional threats.
“The deep clear is an extremely thorough search,” said Tech Sgt. Sylvia Black, the assistant NCO in charge of standards and evaluations. “This stage is what takes the most amount of time, since every inch of the scene is searched.”
Members of the Wing Inspection Team, which consists of members of the Inspector General and subject matter experts from numerous career fields, were posted inside the building to analyze the process during the exercise.
DeHoet, who was a member of the WIT, noticed a concern when the building was being searched.
“While defenders were clearing rooms, we noticed people would open their doors to peek outside and see what was happening,” said DeHoet. “While it is human nature to see what is going on, opening your door is not recommended.
“If a Security Forces member sees someone during a situation as fast-paced as an active shooter, they will see you as a threat, because it isn’t confirmed how many shooters are present.”
Additionally, DeHoet explained that the identity of a security forces member can be verified without opening the door.
“If someone knocks on your door, and declares themselves as security forces, do not immediately believe them,” said DeHoet. “The only surefire way to verify them, is to call the MacDill Base Defense Operations Center (813-828-3322), and ask them if the member is who they say they are.
“BDOC will be able to verify who it is, by communicating with them by hand-held radio.”
Once the building was swept, and all threats controlled, the building was thoroughly searched and all injured personnel were given medical attention. Finally, the lockdown was lifted and the exercise ended.
“Everything done during the exercise was done correctly,” said Black. “However, there’s always room for improvement.
“Communication is always the first priority; continuously training for a real-world scenario, and improving our communication will ultimately help us keep MacDill safe.”