AUBURN — Spent shell casings are everywhere and the smell of gun smoke is thick.

A bad guy roams the halls of the Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard U.S. Army Reserve Center and, while this is only a drill, the intensity is there. Between the rapid-fire thuds of pistol rounds are the sounds of running feet and slamming doors as the building occupants scurry for safe zones.

“I’m going to kill every one of you!” screams the bad guy. He punctuates the warning with blasts from the semi-automatic in his right hand.

He opens doors in search of victims. When a soldier appears in the hallway, the bad guy quickly fires, from a revolver this time, and drops the officer in his tracks.

Auburn Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen is portraying the shooter for this drill and he takes the roll seriously. To prepare a team for an active shooter event, the emotion has to be there — that heart-pounding co-mingling of terror and uncertainty.

“Any time you hear gun fire,” Moen said, “it spikes the blood pressure.”

He keeps blasting away, stepping over fallen soldiers as he makes his way through the first floor of the building, firing round after round of simulation ammunition.

“Come on out,” Moen hollers, banging on doors as he goes. “I’m going to kill you!”

It’s pure chaos and that’s exactly the point. The officers at the reserve center invited Moen in for the drill after three months of planning for the event. By experiencing a simulated active shooter up close and personal, they learn how to keep their soldiers as safe as possible.

“The focus for us,” Moen said, “is testing their response and their evacuation procedures.”

Before the building can be evacuated, the shooting will have to be brought to a halt. That happens when two of Moen’s officers, Sgt. Benjamin Quinnell and Scott Laliberte, enter the building to confront the threat. They come with their own simulated weapons, including an AR-15, which Laliberte trains on the bad guy.

Moen shoots at the officers. The officers return fire and moments later, the bad guy is finished. His shooting spree comes to an end in a tinkling rain of flying brass.

The shooting is over, but now the police officers and the soldiers have to coordinate their efforts to clear the rest of the building, escort survivors and tend to the casualties. It’s a long process, much longer than the shooting itself.

It’s an ugly business on a Sunday morning, but at the reserve center, those in charge said this kind of training is good for everybody. The more equipped the soldiers are to protect themselves, the more available they can be to those outside the walls of the reserve center.

“At the end of the day,” Staff Sgt. Daryl Wilson said, “we give the community a little extra security.”

As for active shooters, nobody expects to see one at the reserve center, but the risk is always there. Madmen have a habit of showing up where they’re not expected.

“They should know,” Wilson said, “that we’re prepared.”

At the end of the drill, teams gathered to review their work. Moen, who has trained in active-shooter scenarios for years, thought the response of the soldiers was solid.

“They were well-organized,” Moen said. “They got to their safe zones pretty quick. Now they just have to work some bugs out.”

Finding those bugs is part of the overall purpose of the training — better to discover them now, the chief stressed, when the bad guy is actually a good guy and all the rounds are harmless.


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