News Stories

Sailor leads staff, students in active shooter drills

By Army Pvt. Elizabeth Williams Defense Information School


In June, Andrews Air Force Base conducted an active shooter drill. After seeing two men carrying guns, someone who was not aware of the drill called emergency responders. The call created confusion on base.

In response, base officials treated the incident as if it were real. They urged all personnel to shelter in place. An hour later, they lifted the lockdown, but the damage was done.

The false alarm on Andrews made leaders at the Defense Information School on Fort Meade reflect on how a similar situation would play out there, said Army 1st Sgt. Rick McNamara, the first sergeant of the school.

The school hadn’t had someone in charge of security for years, but when Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Woolfolk reported for instructor duty, leaders knew they had found the right man for the job.

Woolfolk is credentialed in the field of antiterrorism. He has graduated from several courses and earned a number of certifications.

Woolfolk’s intense interest in the subject of force protection led him to be appointed as the school’s antiterrorism officer in July, shortly after he arrived at DINFOS.

“You want someone who is passionate,” McNamara said. “When you get someone like Woolfolk, you get results.”

One of the first things he did at DINFOS was conduct a vulnerability assessment.

Woolfolk organized an active shooter drill Sept. 15 at the school, during which instructors reviewed procedures in the event of an attack.

Another drill may be held in the next few weeks, he said.

Woolfolk, originally from Lexington, Kentucky, joined the Navy in 2009, and he trained to become an interior communication technician.

On his first ship, the USS Donald Cook, in Naval Station Rota, Spain, he was tasked with a collateral responsibility of training sailors to be ready for attacks.

He and his sailors participated in a training exercise that included a 48-hour attack on the ship.

After the exercise, Woolfolk and his group were evaluated. They passed in the 98th percentile.

“Wherever I am at, I will do my best to make sure we are ready,” Woolfolk said.

His success in training the sailors on the Donald Cook led him to be selected to train three more crews at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.

For two days, Woolfolk conducted surveillance on the ships to learn the habits and weaknesses of the crews. In the next three days, he exposed the vulnerabilities of each crew.

He conducted mock attacks and analyzed how well the crews reacted.

After each attack, he told the sailors what they did well, and then he worked with them to improve on their weaknesses.

With five-hour security shifts, the guards sometimes became robotic and stopped paying attention to whom they let on the ship, Woolfolk said. He instructed the sailors to always be attentive because intruders can appear at any minute.

One night in 2014 at Pier 1 at the naval station, a man slipped past pier security and boarded the USS Mahan. He ignored commands to stop from security personnel.

The petty officer in charge of the watch that night found the man. The two were wrestling when the man gained control of her firearm. The chief of guard, responding to a report of an unauthorized person on the pier, jumped between the two just as the man squeezed the trigger.

The chief of guard was shot and killed, but he saved the petty officer’s life. Then the man was shot and killed by Mahan watch standers.

Upon hearing the news, Woolfolk became motivated to put everything he had into preparing his sailors for similar situations.

“It’s so important to train for an active shooter incident because it is something that might happen,” Woolfolk said. “We have fire drills so that we know what to do if there is a fire, but we don’t really know what to do if there is an active shooter in our building.”

A week before the briefing about the DINFOS drill in September, Woolfolk broke his leg playing softball. McNamara visited him in the hospital.

Woolfolk was not concerned about the rod that would be drilled into his leg, McNamara said. Instead, he was worried about the briefing he would miss. The only thing he talked about in the hospital was the drill.

“But that’s Wooly,” McNamara said.