SEAL BEACH - The helmeted Navy security sailors had their weapons aimed as they made their way into a pitch-black area, headed for the source of gunshots.
If the maneuvers Tuesday at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station had been a real crisis, the skills of the security sailors would have been critical to their response to an emergency.
About 50 sailors participated in the series of security exercises that they will be repeating this week through Friday.
Exercise Citadel Shield 2013 is being conducted on naval bases and installations throughout the continental United States, said base spokesman Gregg Smith.
The event isn't in response to any specific threat but is a regularly scheduled exercise, developed to enhance the training and readiness of Navy security personnel to respond to threats to installations and units, he said.
The security unit took out the shooter - using simulated plastic bullets that smart but don't injure - handcuffing him, and moving the victims to a safe area. The session was graded, and the evaluations would focus on points that need to be upgraded, according to Patrick Harding, an instructor for the Department of Defense.
"They'll train more and more," he said.
Navy Lt. Chris Ambrosi emphasized that one change in tactics is for the security personnel to move to the source of the shooting, instead of waiting for a sighting of a suspect - a lesson learned from recent U.S. shooting incidents.
"The tactics have changed around the country," the lieutenant said.
The station's firefighters and paramedics were also involved in the exercise. The men - as in a real crisis - kept their distance until the "shooter" was captured and then they did triage of any victims, preparing them for transport to a hospital, according to Fire Chief Tim Ybarra.
The exercises will differ during the week, but will mainly involve a scenario of a person with an anger crisis - either off or on the base. Anyone could be a potential threat, he said.
"It could be me snapping," Harding said.
Measures will be taken to avoid disruptions to normal operations, but there may be times when the exercise causes increased traffic around the weapons station, delays in base access and gate closures, said Smith.
The spokesman added that residents could also see increased security activity during the exercise, and the station's "Giant Voice" mass notification loudspeaker system may be used. Civilian boating access to Anaheim Bay is unlikely to be affected during this exercise, he said.