The Vigilance Group brings active-shooter training to diocesan schools

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Michael “Moose” Moore, president of The Vigilance Group, held a safety training for the faculty of Sacred Heart School in Lawrenceburg, Monday, July 24, ahead of the start of the new school year. During the two-hour training, he went through various drills with them and worked with them on different ways to stay safe and, if needed, what to do if the teachers become the first responders. Marian Pickett, principal of Sacred Heart, practices hitting a potential intruder. Photos by Katie Peterson

As the new school year gets ready to begin, Sacred Heart School in Lawrenceburg is one of many schools throughout the Diocese of Nashville that has prepared if the unthinkable were to occur.  Michael “Moose” Moore, president of The Vigilance Group, led an active-shooter response training for teachers and staff at the school on Monday, July 24.

“I first heard about Moose at a principal’s meeting two years ago because he came and gave us a demonstration there,” explained Marian Pickett, principal of Sacred Heart in Lawrenceburg. “Then, we had him here last year, so this was really a refresher course, today.

“It’s important,” Pickett added. “I can’t say it can’t happen to us because it can happen anywhere, anytime, to anybody, so that’s why I wanted him to come back because we do have some new teachers, and I wanted them all to be aware of everything.”

The importance of knowing how to respond when there is the threat of an active shooter has been heightened in recent months following The Covenant School shooting in March, Moore said. He has completed similar trainings at St. Ann School, St. Henry School, and Christ the King School in Nashville, Pope John Paul II Preparatory School in Hendersonville, St. Joseph School in Madison, St. Matthew School in Franklin, St. Patrick School in McEwen, as well as Holy Family Church in Brentwood and St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Antioch.

“I’ve done more of these trainings since Covenant than I’ve done all last year before everything occurred,” Moore explained. “School administrators and teachers, as well as clergy and parish staff, are now looking for ways to protect their Catholic communities. 

“They realize it requires security professionals for many of these answers,” he said. 

Pickett agreed. “We reinforce it in faculty meetings, what they’re supposed to do in certain situations,” she said, “but it’s a lot better coming from somebody who knows a lot more about it than I do.”

Moore’s experience includes 20 years as a fighter pilot, retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, 10 years as an air marshal, training in terrorist threat detection and predictive profiling, and holding a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

“My focus has always been on terrorism, and how to protect a unit,” Moore explained. “I’m not a cop. I don’t know all the laws. I don’t have all that memorized. I’m not reactive, I’m proactive in trying to recognize what I see as potential danger.”

Moore portrays an active shooter whom the teachers attack while also neutralizing the firearm.

For the past 10 years, Moore has been working with the Catholic community of Nashville, teaching the staffs at various churches and schools about the fighting side of a response. Recently, Moore was recognized with a resolution on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives, recognizing him for his service to the diocese and the state. The effort was led by Rep. Gino Bulso of Williamson County, father of Father Andy Bulso, pastor of St. Edward Church. The resolution was adopted on March 30, 2023.

“It was quite a surprise to me,” Moore said, emphasizing that all he’s doing is “teaching them how to protect themselves if the worst-case scenario happens. I’m teaching them what to do if they have to be the first responder during that window of time until law enforcement arrives.”

To start the training, Moore spoke of some lessons learned from The Covenant School shooting.

“I’m glad he went into detail with Covenant because that was after his last training, and he offered some lessons learned from there as well,” said Matthew Schwind, third and fourth-grade teacher at Sacred Heart Lawrenceburg. “Instead of it being theoretical or hypothetical, he really pulled from what’s already happened.”

Then Moore, with the help of Bella Stephens, The Vigilance Group trainer, and Charles Roselle, The Vigilance Group consultant and ex-secret service professional, went through a series of drills with the faculty and staff. They included such things as ways to take control of the weapon and incapacitate the shooter by spraying pepper gel or attacking the shooter with scissors or a pencil or even a thumb. Throughout, he noted how the key areas to focus on are the soft-tissue areas, such as the eyes or the throat.

Moore explains that one way to help stop an active shooter situation is to grab the side to cause a resistance.

“His training is very good,” Schwind said. “I like that he tells everybody the secret sauce to the whole thing is mindset, getting into that fighting mindset and how you’ve got to turn it on when there’s a bad guy in the building.

“I also like that we actually went outside and sprayed the pepper gel,” he added, noting that wind problems last year made it so they couldn’t practice that. “That demonstration was very good.”

Christina Robertson, seventh and eighth grade teacher, said she appreciated the opportunity to practice the various possibilities that could occur.

“Actually practicing a take down of a shooter, even though it was all in fun, is crucial,” Roberton said. “Just talking about the process in no way prepares you, but going through the motions is essential for muscle memory.”

“It was very informative and made us feel better prepared for any attack that might occur,” she added.

Being prepared was the whole lesson of the training, Pickett said.

“You can never say that it can’t happen here,” Pickett said. “I’m sure Covenant thought it couldn’t happen there. I’m sure Uvalde thought it couldn’t happen there. I’m sure Parkland thought it couldn’t happen there. But they did, so we have to be prepared.”

To set up a training session with Moore and The Vigilance Group, email

Subscribe to our email list

Keep your finger on the pulse of Catholic life in Middle Tennessee by subscribing to the
weekday E-Register here.

* indicates required