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NMMI conducts active shooter exercise

Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington, at right, and Lt. Col. Aaron Johnson, professor of military science, talk with New Mexico Military Institute cadets during a “table top exercise” Saturday at the Institute to discuss how first responders and NMMI employees and cadets would respond to an active shooter on campus. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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How New Mexico Military Institute’s cadets, its police and leadership, and law enforcement and first responders would work together to respond to an active shooter in one of its buildings came to the forefront this weekend during a community training session.

The crisis response event — known as a tabletop exercise and representing a three-hour condensation of a two-day training model provided by the Federal Emergency Management Administration — occurred with cadets Saturday in the Institute’s Daniels Leadership Center. Representatives of the NMMI police force, Roswell Police Department, Roswell Fire Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, the New Mexico Mounted Police and Lovelace Regional Hospital also participated.

The exercise was coordinated by Lt. Col. Eddy Lynton, head of the NMMI Security Studies Program in the Criminal Justice Department, and involved questions about responding to an active shooter in Wilson Hall.

How would authorities be contacted quickly? During the Parkland High School shooting, the attacker was armed and warned people that he was about to shoot, but it took some time for students to get the word to administrators. Do people know that the NMMI wifi can be used for cell phones even after the cell phone tower goes down due to volume of calls? How would a large and open area like the Institute be made secure until the shooter is stopped? How would victims with injuries be handled? Active shooters often pull fire alarms. Should students run from buildings, rather than shelter in place, if they hear an alarm but don’t see a fire or smoke?

Questions were posed to subgroups representing a law enforcement or first responder agency, and then were discussed with the entire group of about 70 people. Cadets in Lynton’s program acted as student facilitators.

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The session served several purposes. It gave cadets more understanding of what would happen at the Institute in such crises. It allowed professionals in the field to share information and discuss ideas, not only with cadets but with each other. And it allowed students to explore potential career fields.

“The hopes are that the students will understand and be able to work with an organization that they have interest in,” said Sgt. Maj. Chris Broesamle, a leadership development officer and the active shooter prevention coordinator for the Institute, “and then when they work with those areas of interest they will see how they respond to an active shooter happening on this campus.”

Lt. Col. Aaron Johnson, military science professor, added, “This shows them that there are so many different options if they are interested in criminal justice.”

For some law enforcement and first responders in the Roswell area, including Sheriff Mike Herrington, the active shooter scenario was unfortunately familiar. A 12-year-old student at Berrendo Middle School shot fellow students in 2014. When Herrington and Lovelace Regional Hospital staff began exchanging some comments and questions about response issues, Broesamle and Lynton both were pleased with the dialogue.

“That’s why we do this,” Broesamle said, “so there can be these type of interagency discussions.”

He added that emergency drills of all sorts are held with cadets during the academic year and that an active shooter simulation at the Institute is planned for the spring.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.