Fort Hood Shootings (part 1, in memoriam 2009 and 2014)

4 April 2014

Our thoughts and prayers go out the injured, the dead, their families and the whole Ft. Hood community. We had planned to post about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in honor of his death, but instead we’ll be posting about the recent Fort Hood shooting and the prior one from Oct 2009.

06 April 2014

My purpose in writing this post today is two-fold.  I want to record some known facts about the 2014 and 2009 mass-shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. I also want to record some of my personal feelings about the 2009 incident, since I was stationed there at that time.

On the afternoon of 2 April 2014, subsequent to an argument, a U. S. service member brought an unauthorized firearm onto Fort Hood, Texas, and shot over a dozen fellow service members, in two locations. Then a female Military Police Solider confronted the shooter. At this point published reports say the shooter turned his weapon upon himself, and ended his own life.  As of this writing, published reports indicate four dead, including the gunman, and over a dozen wounded, some critical.

In the days since then, news crews, FBI agents and other investigators have swarmed over Fort Hood, the city of Killeen, TX (just outside Ft. Hood’s main gate) and by now probably Fort Bliss and El Paso, TX, as well.  The shooter had only been stationed at Fort Hood for a matter of weeks, less than two months, before the shooting incident.  His prior duty station was Fort Bliss.  Doubtless, investigators will swarm over that Post, as well, in an effort to find those who knew the shooter and determine his motives in the shooting.

Early reports on 2 April 2014 indicated about a dozen shot (much like the earlier shooting on 5 November 2009, after which 13 died), and that a medical facility had been one of the shooting locations (again, much like the earlier shooting in 2009).  So,  you can see why, on that evening and the following day, those of us who were at Fort Hood for that earlier shooting, in Nov 2009, would have felt some uncomfortable flashbacks.

The first thing I did on both days was attempt to contact my loved-ones and friends and let them know I was safe.  I had a message on my phone from my sister on 2 Apr 2014 asking if I was okay, because she thought I was there, or near-by, again.  While no-one who has been in the Army for more than a month would confuse Ft Hood with Ft Bliss, these are both large bases in Texas.  Thus, family members can be forgiven for confusing the two bases.

On 5 November 2009, I sent text messages out to some loved-ones and friends, and completed phone calls to others.  I reached them before the story hit the news, so I just told them, “when you see the news from Ft. Hood, know that I am okay.”  On 2 April 2014, I found out about the story from the news.  So, after I let my family know that this time I was 500 miles away, instead of five, I checked in on friends who were still stationed there or who had been there with us at the time.

As 2 April wore on, and 3 April began, the two events seemed very similar to  me.  A service member, shooting other service members, on the same post, both times at medical facilities…  On 5 November 2009, I had planned to be at the location where the gunman shouted “Allah hu Akbar” and subsequently killed 13 and wounded 31.  The 2009 gunman conducted his mass-shooting at a Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP) site where service members, who preparing to deploy, got their paperwork and vaccinations in order.  I was about sixty days out from deploying myself and intended to complete my vaccinations on the afternoon of 5 November 2009.  If I had attempted to complete my vaccinations that afternoon, I would have been in the same facility, possibly in the same room, where the gunman opened fire.  A colleague insisted that we should all attend some briefings on the other side of post, five miles from the SRP site.  I didn’t think it mattered.  The briefings would be given several more times and I would have several more days to get to the clinic for my vaccinations.  The colleague and I discussed it for several minutes, and he convinced me to attend the briefings instead.

When the briefings were interrupted that afternoon and we were all sent back to our offices for a lock down, it seemed that my colleague had been prescient of the day’s events.  Most likely not.  But it seemed that way at the time.

When I think about that day, it seems like I dodged, not a bullet, but a traumatic event.  If I had insisted upon completing my vaccinations that day, I would have been in the location where the gunman conducted his rampage.  I would have witnessed the woundings and killings that occurred.  Best not to think or write about what else might have occurred…

Since that day in 2009, the first Fort Hood shootings have been included in Anti-Terrorism training, although the Obama Administration denies links to terrorism, Islamism, and calls it simply, a workplace shooting.  However, as above, the 2009 shooter shouted “Allah hu Akbar,” which, at that time, was a known Islamist terrorist battle cry.  And according to published reports, the 2009 gunman initially cited prevention of harm to his Taliban and al Qaeda-linked comrades in his justification for the shooting.

Published reports about the 2 April 2014 shooter indicate truly no links to terrorism or Islamism.  Reports do indicate that the recent shooter was being treated for depression, evaluated for Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and was using Ambien as a prescribed sleep aid.   Reports also cite an argument among the shooter and other service members.

It is possible that the recent shooter was taking prescribed medications for depression, and for PTSD in addition to the Ambien.  If this is the case, it is also possible that the combined effects of the medications produced some sort of unintended effect upon the gunman’s mood or upon his cognitive ability to process stressful events such as arguments.  As of this writing, I do not know whether  the recent shooters was prescribed or taking any other medications, in addition to the Ambien.  No doubt this will be revealed in a toxicology report associated with an autopsy of the shooter.  I am simply pointing out a possibility, here.  I am not making any assertions.

I know people who have used Ambien under a doctor’s prescription, as sleep aid, with complete success.  Tens of thousands of service members, and hundreds of thousands of other citizens, are treated for depression and sleeplessness without any violent incident at all.

Absent any terrorist motivations and any prior criminal record,  the 2 April 2014 shooter’s reasons for solving his problems with bullets instead of words remain unclear.  I think we would be ill-advised to ignore the shooter’s mental state and prescribed medications in future analysis.

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