Col. Thomas P. Sherman never expected to be dealing with an active shooter scare just weeks after taking over as the commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base but he said it was something he and the rest of the 27,000 workers at the military installation were prepared for.
Sherman took over as commander on June 19, about 45 days before an Aug. 2 active shooter incident closed base gates and plunged the site into nearly three hours of fear and uncertainty.
“The Air Force does a pretty darn good job to prepare us as best they can,” Sherman told the Dayton Daily News on Thursday. “It’s the moment that those things happen that you have to really rely on experience and you have to truly rely on the experts you have around you because it is about utilizing that expertise. They’re the ones that understand the base, they understand the nuances and they’re experts at their craft.”
Someone from inside Wright-Patterson Medical Center called 911 around 12:40 p.m. on Aug. 2.
It’s unclear what that initial 911 caller reported but the call went to the base’s operation center and prompted Wright-Patt’s security forces and fire department to respond. In response to the 911 call, Wright-Patt security forces began a systematic sweep and clear of the entire hospital facility.
Citing the federal Freedom of Information Act, this newspaper requested 911 calls routed through the base’s emergency operation center a little more than a month ago.
On the day of the incident, the base was conducting active shooter training. One member of the base’s security team was injured with minor lacerations during the scare, base officials have said.
During the sweep, the base’s security forces fired a weapon in an attempt to breach a locked door in the medical center. Photos circulating on social media that were obtained by this newspaper appear to show bullet-sized holes in a wall inside a medical center room.
That use of a firearm is now under investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
Now, Sherman and the review board he ordered are looking to answer why the false alarm happened in the first place and how best they can respond next time.
The board is conducing a “holistic” review of the incident but Sherman said it will specifically look at everything from “the timeline of events from start to finish to how do we manage our exercise processes and was that something that potentially influenced this.”
” Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is come up with some individual management-level takeaways or lessons learned from across the spectrum,” Sherman said.
Despite the Aug. 2 incident, Sherman said he’s been able to begin to settle into his new job and that the Dayton area has become his new home. He’s gotten to visit a number of restaurants and local attractions and said he’s noticed a “genuine kindness” from the people he’s met in the Miami Valley.
But, the commander said he still has “an amazing amount of learning” to do when it comes to getting to know the community and the base.
“I think that learning process is going to go on for some time,” he said. “But, I think it needs to.”