Not lucky but trained: AFROTC students respond during active shooter

  • Published
  • By Billy Blankenship
  • Air University Public Affairs

During an active shooter incident on Michigan State University Feb. 14, 2022, several Air Force ROTC students leaned on recent training during the situation that resulted in three fatalities and five other injuries.

Detachment 380 cadets completed annual active shooter response training the week prior on campus, which proved timely based on the rapid response displayed.

Eight Michigan State students were wounded by the shooter, three of which suffered fatal injuries. A significant site of the activity was near an area that several AFROTC students were studying. Any response would be critical considering proximity, but through the storm of events they showed great resolve and adherence to training.

"It was difficult for me to witness something like this happen without being able to do anything," said Matthew Bush, the cadet wing commander who was barricaded inside his apartment during the event. "Sitting and waiting for things to turn out okay is hard, especially when lives are on the line. If you're physically distant from the situation, but you know you've got good people involved, you have to trust them to make the best decisions for the moment. We weren't just lucky that our cadets made it out alive from that situation, they followed their training to the letter and took care of each other."

"It was difficult for me to witness something like this happen without being able to do anything"Matthew Bush, the cadet wing commander

Bush initiated a telephone recall and gathered everyone's status within 30 minutes. He continued to coordinate resources and direct actions until the "all clear" was given. Another senior cadet, Joseph Buswinka, was conducting marching practice for underclassmen when the unthinkable started nearby. He followed the active shooter training by barricading himself and the other 10 cadets in an inner office, establishing contact with cadet leadership and the local law enforcement, and monitored the situation through social media. Nathan Maher, a senior cadet, received a call from his freshman mentee in Berkey Hall where the shooting took place. She had evacuated the building and fled on foot, also adhering to the recently conducted training, and contacted her chain of command for further instructions. Maher drove toward the shooter's location in his car to pick up the cadet and drove her to safety.

"When I was first notified of the shooting at MSU, I was fearful and nervous for the status of our cadets as well as the student body. As I learned about our cadet's experiences, I was extremely proud of their decisive action, their professionalism, and their care for their fellow cadets and students. Our cadets showed incredible initiative during the tragedy," said Lt. Col. Brenton Gaylord, Detachment 380 commander.

"The actions of our cadre and cadets in the midst of a crisis are a testament to our values, our training, and the relationships we established prior to this tragic event. When it mattered, our team responded as well as we could have expected," said Col. Corey Ramsby, Headquarters Air Force ROTC commander.