Following the shooting incident in Chattanooga in July, the topic of military personnel carrying guns at home station has reached the headlines nationwide. One myth that we may find among our own career field, especially in the Air National Guard, is that if we are awarded the Air Force Security Forces LEOSA credential that we’re good to go and can carry a concealed handgun anywhere and everywhere. This in fact, is a myth. Can you carry while in your Air Force uniform? Can you carry on base? If so, what are the laws? Know the laws before you end up breaking them.
AFMAN 31-125 is the manual for the Air Force’s implementation of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, but laws vary from state to state, in federal areas, and on military installations. Did you know some ANG bases do allow you to carry your personal handgun concealed on base? And even more surprising, some active duty Air Force bases have local instructions that allow Defenders with their LEOSA credentials to carry as well, but do not assume any base, local, state, or federal building permits you to carry. It is a right and privilege to carry, but if you do carry, carry smartly.
When it comes to terrorism and mass-violence on American soil, we are not going to defeat ISIS by carrying a Smith & Wesson .380 Bodyguard seven rounds; we are going to defeat ISIS by staying alert, reporting suspicious activity, and learning to take action when the hair on the back of your neck stands up. But in that instant, when the lone wolf does show up at the gas station where half of your squadron goes for coffee the morning of drill or you find yourself at a public venue and an ISIS sympathizer shows up to wreck your plans with an AK-47, it may be up to you to eliminate the threat, or retreat with others to fight another day.
To make a mass-violence event less likely, we have to catch the guy before he starts shooting. That is not an easy task. Lots of people say and do unusual and even startling things but are harmless — and some real bad guys are very careful not to tip their hands before the attack. A good rule of thumb is, “If you see something, say something.” When in doubt, report suspicious activity to local law enforcement, or if on or near your base, notify BDOC that you suspect someone may be preparing an attack. To help you sort out the threat from the background noise, consider the Air Force Office of Special Investigations’ list of indicators that an attack may be in progress.
Once a mass-violence event starts, the only way to make it less severe is to stop it or slow the attack. Lots of people have opinions about what you should do once the shooting starts. I think you should review the material provided by the Department of Homeland Security and talk to your local experts. But consider these ideas:
- Get the emergency call out. Law enforcement needs good, timely information so that they can effectively challenge the attacker. If you have your cell phone with you, use it. Call 911, and be prepared to both follow their directions and volunteer information that might be helpful. Consider that in any tactical situation, the good guys will be looking for your SALUTE report; and in case you haven’t been deployed in a while, SALUTE is a memory-jogging acronym for SIZE, ACTIVITY, LOCATION, UNIFORM, TIME, EQUIPMENT. It is not a perfect checklist, but helping the police fill in those blanks might help speed up their response and save lives. It might sound like this: “Hello this is SSgt Sandbag and I am reporting multiple gunshots near the main gate. I am in my POV with several other cars trying to exit. I can see two shooters moving together towards the visitor’s center and shooting at cars in the parking lot; they are wearing white t-shirts and black cargo pants. The shooting started about a minute ago and I can see a lot of people hurt; the shooters have rifles and they are wearing some kind of vests.” Do not expose yourself to fire just to get a look at the attacker, or to get to the phone. Stay hidden and behind cover and only engage the threat as a last resort and do so with powerful aggression and a will to win.
- Have some tools at hand. You cannot and should not bring a weapon on base unless allowed by LEOSA credentials and your base authorizes you to carry. With that said, I am not aware of any rule against having a trauma first aid kit in any work place. Make sure you keep a first aid kit in your vehicle, in your home and make sure the kit at your office is stocked with trauma supplies such as QuikClot, Tourniquets, and pressure bandages. Take initiative to look through the first aid kits at your work station and encourage others to do so as well, so everyone is familiar with their contents in an emergency.
- Get trained. Get the most advanced emergency medical training you can. Take a basic first aid class, take an EMT or First-Responder class, and then take a Tactical Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support Class. Consider asking base medics to teach a Tactical Combat Casualty Care course to you and other airmen, beyond the Self Aid Buddy Care CBT. Apply common sense and good judgment about employing your skills within your scope of training, and do not expose yourself to fire to do so.
A combined piece on LEOSA and mass-violence, usually called an active shooter, but while carrying a firearm, whether on or off duty, legally, and you may find yourself in a situation where engaging a threat or responding to its aftermath, that requires forethought, training, and an understanding of the law on your part. Do not violate laws by carrying a handgun on base or in uniform – keep yourself out of trouble. Following the rules doesn’t mean giving up or letting the bad guys win. It means that you need to improve and maintain your situational awareness, get and sustain medical training, and have a plan; but if you are afforded the opportunity to carry a weapon, train, sustain, and maintain all aspects of firearms proficiency and safety.
Article by: MSgt Peter K. Bowden
Air National Guard Security Forces
July 31, 2015
MSgt Peter K. Bowden