The Defense Department’s security agency and Arlington County firefighters are cross training so that they will be able to collectively rush into an active-shooter scenario at the Pentagon armed with medical supplies and weapons — a new tactic that will be deployed the next time the government building is under siege.
If gunmen were to invade the Pentagon and go on a shooting spree, targeting government employees as they flee through the halls of the massive building, a group of three armed Pentagon Force Protection Agency officers and two unarmed Arlington County firefighters — each carrying a trauma kit — would try to save lives before the violent melee has come to a halt.
The group, known as the Rescue Task Force, would be summoned by one of two initial waves of Pentagon police before the all-clear call has been issued, according to Reed Smith, the medical director for the Arlington County Fire Department.
“Their job is to go in and stop the killing, our job is to go in and stop the dying,” he said.
The change in emergency response protocol comes during an uptick in shootings on military property.
In September 2013, Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old civilian contractor, brought a disassembled shotgun to the headquarters of Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C. and killed 13 people. In March, Jeffrey Savage, a 35-year-old ex-convict, gained access to a docked destroyer at Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia, and shot and killed a Navy security forces officer. The following month, 34-year-old Ivan Lopez, a member of the Army National Guard, killed four people, including himself, at Fort Hood, Texas.
During a rare peek at Pentagon active-shooter protocol on Wednesday, Maj. Kinnard described to an auditorium full of government employees and contractors taking part in an active-shooter seminar what an emergency situation at the massive headquarters building might look like.
Military personnel accustomed to leaving no man on the battlefield would be instructed to abandon their wounded colleagues while police run through the Pentagon’s long hallways in pursuit of potential threats, Maj. Kinnard said.
“Unfortunately, we have to save the greater many by stopping the threat. So if we have to bypass you with a gunshot wound on the floor, that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
Defense Department personnel firmly believe that the best way to contain an active shooter situation is to lock down the Pentagon, trapping the shooter inside, according to Integrated Emergency Operations Center Pentagon director John O’Neill. So developing an emergency response protocol that fits that scenario is critical, he said during the same active-shooter seminar.
It will be their job to swoop in at the tail end of the active-shooter crisis and help those who had been shot amid the chaos, he said.
The task force began training together in late 2013 and has been steadily progressing toward conducting a “full-speed drill,” which will include mock active shooters and manikins as victims, according to Mr. Smith.