Robins works to prevent, prepare for potential shooter on base

wcrenshaw@macon.comApril 3, 2014 

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Robins has never experienced the kind of tragedy that has now happened twice at Fort Hood, but that doesn’t mean base leaders aren’t doing whatever they can to be ready for it.

On Wednesday, Spc. Ivan Lopez killed three people at the Texas military base and injured 16 others before killing himself, according to media reports.

Col. Patricia Ross, vice commander of the 78th Air Base Wing, said Thursday that Robins periodically holds exercises practicing what to do if there is an active shooter. The exercises happen without notice and test the ability of both emergency personnel and regular employees to properly respond.

“I think the base is very prepared,” she said.

Local law enforcement agencies are also involved in the exercises.

Perhaps more important, the base puts considerable effort into preventing such an occurrence by emphasizing the importance of awareness of co-workers who may be having problems.

Twice each year, the base holds “Wingman Day,” which includes team-building events that encourage base employees to reach out to those who may be in need of help. The wingman events stress resiliency and perseverance through difficult times, she said.

The base also has its own counselors and partners with mental health professionals in the community to provide help to those who need it.

She said those kinds of efforts have been particularly important in the past year as employees have dealt with furloughs and other uncertainties related to budget cutbacks.

Any troops returning from a combat deployment, Ross said, are required to get an evaluation, and they get counseling if the evaluation determines they need it.

Just going through one shooting would be traumatic for any base, but now Fort Hood has had two.

“I can’t imagine what they must be going through,” Ross said. “It is catastrophic.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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