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MCAS ‘attacked' by shooters in emergency drill
Tuesday began as a typical day in warehouse building 530 for Sgt. Michael Grabowsky — at least until a man with an M-16A4 and a bomb walked in and started shooting.
Fortunately, it was all part of a drill at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
The “shooter” was armed only with blanks. He and a second shooter, located in a different building on base, were tasked with simulating an active shooter incident. The two faux villains were Marines chosen randomly based on their qualifications.
The emergency response training, formally referred to as Exercise Desert Fire, was conducted to prepare base law enforcement and emergency medical responders for situations such as the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, in which a single gunman killed 13 people and wounded 29 others.
“We conduct training semiannually, at least twice a year minimum,” said Lt. Cory Karr of the MCAS Yuma Provost Marshal's Office (PMO).
“We take previous role (playing) events that occurred, learn from those and then adapt them into our training planning, so that we can learn as best we can to deal with any situation that may arise.”
The shooter in building 530 entered through the rear entrance and then walked up a flight of stairs, Grabowsky said, noting the man was equipped with enough ammunition to maintain an adequate defense during a prolonged siege.
“He came up the stairs, started firing and told everyone to get on the ground and move to the center of the room.”
There were “casualties” immediately, Grabowsky added. “One was shot in the left leg, one was grazed in the shoulder and another one had a laceration above the eye.”
The shooter told the hostages he had a bomb and waited for the arrival of military police.
When the shooter had entered the building, a private first class was able to make a phone call to the PMO to report the incident.
“After that, she low-crawled into the office, shut the door and locked it,” Grabowsky said.
A short time later, the shooter looked out the window and saw “some MPs coming in through the parking lot,” Grabowsky said.
He then shouted, “You'll never take me alive!”
Over at building 645 where the second shooter was holed up, MPs had established a perimeter.
Non-essential personnel in the area, along with those wounded in the shooting, were escorted to a nearby gymnasium where a medical triage center had been set up. A Special Reaction Team (SRT), a group specially trained to respond to such dire situations, cleared the gym to make it safe for EMTs to enter and treat the wounded.
At building 645, MPs moved from floor to floor of the three-story structure to locate and subdue the shooter. As the MPs made their way through the building, several gunshots could clearly be heard.
“They cleared the building and found the shooter,” Karr said, noting the assailant was dealt with appropriately.
Back in building 530, the first shooter occasionally fired out the window at the MPs who had established a perimeter. They did not enter as quickly as they had at building 645 because of the presence of a bomb.
Grabowsky decided not to wait for the negotiators to secure his freedom and plotted his escape. Finally when the shooter turned his back, Grabowsky made a dash for the exit. “I booked it for the door, and he fired as I was leaving…”
The shooter shot his weapon three times in Grabowsky's direction, but the sergeant was gone in a flash.
“As soon as I got outside, my hands were up in the air,” Grabowsky said. “I found the MPs and told them the situation … how many wounded, and all that. It was pretty good training, actually. It definitely keeps us on our toes.”
The shooter remained barricaded in the building for some time after Grabowsky's escape until the SRT and MPs could formulate a plan and rescue the hostages.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.