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Active shooter drill held aboard NAS Whiting Field

NAS WHITING FIELD - An annual anti-terrorism drill was held aboard NAS Whiting Field today involving base security, firefighters and SWAT officers. This year, the focus was on responding to an active shooter, a scenario that's become all too familiar on military bases.

Drills like the one held today are no joke. Just a few months ago the Navy got a horrific reminder of why they're necessary. Last September a lone gunman fatally shot twelve people at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC. It's the second deadliest mass murder on a U.S. military base. Although the drill at Whiting Field today was planned before that horrible event, it was on everyone's mind.

"This drill is in many ways shaped from the Washington, DC incident," said Gregory Snyder, the base fire inspector.

During the exercise, security forces moved in on an auditorium where an active shooter had barricaded himself inside. Firefighters, paramedics and others got into place ready to take quick action when necessary.

"The biggest thing sometimes is the unknown because you don't know what you're walking into," said Lieutenant Junior Grade Stephen Pakola, who's in charge of base security.

During the drill, Pakola and his troops had to coordinate with a number of different crews, including SWAT officers from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office and base firefighters.

"Our number one concern again is life safety," said Snyder, "We keep ourselves safe. We try and protect as many people as possible."

Snyder says from the moment his team is called out they begin assessing the situation.

"We have to look at different things from a fire standpoint from a structural standpoint in the event of any explosions," Snyder said, "We have to check and make sure that the scene is even safe for us to be there."

"Those first few minutes in that response can sway how that whole situation and the response type scenario goes," said Pakola.

This time of year, annual anti-terrorism drills are being held at Navy bases throughout the country.