Tuesday’s active shooter training likely took on more meaning than usual for Rapid City, S.D., police officers.

It came less than 48 hours after a virtual one-man army fired thousands of rounds from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. From his well-armed perch, the 64-year-old used modified semi-automatic weapons to rain terror, destruction and death onto a crowd of around 22,000 country music fans.

In the chaos that ensued and as people ran for their lives or tried to hide from this military-style attack that would claim 58 lives, police officers, firefighters and paramedics sprang into action in ways that most would find unimaginable.

They helped concert-goers escape, treated the wounded, comforted the dying and found the killer who would take his own life as officers approached his hotel room — all in a day’s work for people who willingly risk their lives for others. Among those heroes in Las Vegas were off-duty first-responders attending the concert. They, too, answered the call to what would be the worst modern-day mass killing in U.S. history.

Unfortunately, first-responders have encountered these hellish scenes far too often in recent years — from Las Vegas to Dallas to Orlando to Charleston, S.C., to Columbine, Colo., and the list could go on.

In Rapid City on Tuesday, police officers participated in the training session at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Rapid City Police Officer Dan Mertz explained to a Rapid City Journal reporter that tactics have changed considerably in the past 15 years when police officers are confronted with active-shooter situations. Previously, the strategy was to set up a perimeter and wait for a SWAT team. Today, the emphasis is on saving lives, which means officers are taught to swarm a building and advance toward a shooter who could be armed with considerable firepower as was the case in Las Vegas when first-responders entered what resembled a battlefield.

If there is a bright spot that comes from Sunday night’s horror, it was the efforts of those first-responders who demonstrated a level of bravery similar to those who serve in the military and risk their lives for others.

Their physical and mental toughness likely does not come naturally as few people are willing to charge into a hail of gunfire screaming down from the skies. Yet, they do it out of a sense of duty, which they do on a smaller yet also dangerous scale while patrolling the streets of Rapid City or any other community in this state or nation.

Danger can always be just around the corner. If it wasn’t for those willing to put their lives on the line to protect and serve, chaos would eventually consume us.

All first-responders are live-savers and deserve support and praise from a grateful public.

— Rapid City (S.D.) Journal

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