Real-world lockdown shakes our sense of “safety”

  • Published
  • By Col. Doug Wickert
  • 412th Test Wing Commander

Team Edwards, the reported gun brandishing incident that placed our base on lockdown for several hours last December still resonates with many of us. It has prompted some of us to question our physical and psychological safety, creating a sense of insecurity. This reaction is typical after experiencing a potential life-threatening situation, regardless of how safely it may have played out. I encourage anyone experiencing stressors related to security or safety – such as anxiety, sleep issues or hypervigilance – to reach out our team of responsive and receptive professionals right here on base. Helping Agencies services are provided at no cost, with no prerequisite requirements or career impact.

To alleviate these stressors on a broader scale, during the coming months we’re going to delve deeper into topics of incident response and safety – including psychological safety. We’ll  address identified knowledge gaps, including clarifying distinctions between shelter-in-place (atmospheric ‘stay-indoors’ protection) and lockdown (human-threat ‘lock-the-doors’ and ‘turn-off-the-lights’ protection). As a starting point, from the human-threat aspect, be assured that you and I and our families are living and/or working in one of the safest communities our nation has to offer – a U.S. military installation.

We tend to mirror aspects of American society – views on politics, sports, entertainment, etc. – yet in all the ways that count regarding safety, professional behavior, respect, trust and associated values, we consistently represent and amplify the broader societal good. One of those values, service before self, is a trait unique to close-knit groups like the military – including our civilians – fire fighters, law enforcement and select others. It means we are all willing to give of ourselves for the benefit of people we don’t even know; many are willing to give all, some have, and some among us will. These are the people we go to work with daily and socialize with across this base. This is why I share your pride in who we are as a military community. This is also why we are astonished and troubled when a member of our community engages in behaviors that go against our sense of shared values, civilized conduct and, most especially, personal security.

Still, by all comparative measures, we are far safer here on Edwards and at Plant 42 than most anywhere else. We live and/or work in a gated community with a 24/7 security force that, as of this past year, also includes two full-time school security officers to provide both comfort and security. At any given time, our Defenders and other first responders are less five minutes from any population area on this base. Our Defenders are also second to none; they receive more than twice the amount of annual training on how to engage, move, communicate and rescue than their civilian counterparts. As part of our “always ready” mindset, we do not take these security advantages for granted; we frequently practice (and our Defenders do so daily) and continually reassess our procedures for responding to the threat of on-base violence, among other potential emergencies. And we can all contribute at home and within our own work groups by asking ourselves, “How can I make my environment safer?” and then committing to make those improvements.

As we enter another cycle of exercises, our goal remains to ensure all of us – school-age children included – are not only aware of what to do during a base emergency (such as an active-shooter situation) but are also proficient in that knowledge so immediate action becomes muscle memory. To that end, both our on-base Muroc Joint Unified School District (this month) and the base (next month) will continue to hold exercises that test our knowledge and actions so we can reinforce proper emergency response behaviors and continually improve our processes. When we kick off these and subsequent exercises, it will be from a starting point of making one of the safest places in our nation even safer.