Wednesday’s shooting at Fort Hood was the third major shooting attack on a U.S. military installation in the past five years, leaving the nation and the Fort Hood area grappling once again with the prospect of more flag-draped funerals for troops killed on U.S. soil and trying to determine ways to prevent another tragedy.
Security measures on post were tightened following the shooting. Getting on post Thursday was slow going, with cars backed up to the highway’s off ramp. Blockades were set up around the area where the events transpired, with soldiers manning each barricade.
During response Wednesday, Fort Hood’s military police donned new black outer
tactical vests, something they acquired earlier this year in response to the shooting in 2009 when Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30.
“The people who responded (in 2009) had a hard time determining who was a victim, who was a potential suspect and who was a responding law enforcement because everybody was wearing the same uniform,” Command Sgt. Maj. Peter J. Ladd, with the 89th Military Police Brigade, told the Herald in March. “So one of the recommendations was that responding emergency personnel and law enforcement should have another means of identifying themselves.”
In 2009, military police officers were identified by a two-inch by four-inch shoulder tab and vests worn under their Army uniforms. In Wednesday’s shooting, Spc. Ivan Lopez, with the 13th Sustainment Command, opened fire in the 1st Medical Brigade area, killing three and wounding 16 before fatally shooting himself as a law enforcement closed in, officials said.
Officers and first responders from agencies across Central Texas routinely gather to receive training on how to respond to active shooters.
The most recent training event occurred March 13 at Lampasas High School. The two-day event used the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training curriculum, which was developed after the tragedy at Columbine High School, and has become the national standard for training.
It included both classroom instruction and active-shooting scenarios, with participants each taking turns playing law enforcement as well as shooters, injured victims and bystanders.
The 13th Sustainment Command conducted a weeklong series of “active shooter” force protection exercises in November on post. The purpose of the exercise was to test members of the unit on what they learned during past training sessions on how to react in an active-shooter incident.
Local agencies respond
Local law enforcement agencies were called in to help Fort Hood’s military police following Wednesday’s shootings, and working as one department helped get the job done, Bell County Precinct 3 Constable Thomas Prado said.
“We teamed up with everyone including the military police, Department of Public Safety, Texas Rangers and civilian police to search the barracks because there were reports of a possible second gunman,” he said.
The search required officers to go up and down three flights of stairs, find everyone in the building, take them to a rally point, search them for possible weapons and then take them to a secured area, Prado said.
“We worked as a reactionary team, going in as one department and doing what we were told to do. That was possible because we all train the same way although we don’t train together,” he said.
The Department of Public Safety sent about 42 personnel to assist Fort Hood at the command center, Senior Trooper Harpin Myers said.
Bell County Sheriff’s Department also assisted at Fort Hood.
“We’re not telling how many deputies we sent for security reasons, but we did help secure the gates and perimeter to make sure no one forcefully tried to get in or out,” Lt. Donnie Adams said. “It’s something we’re trained to do. We followed our plan and it worked well.”
Guns on post
After the Washington Navy Yard shooting in September, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, introduced legislation that would allow service members and federal civilians to carry personal weapons on military installations.
With the exception of military police officers and law enforcement, soldiers at Fort Hood and all other U.S. military installations are not armed or permitted to carry privately owned guns. The restrictions on personal weapons were expanded after the 2009 massacre and a spate of suicides at Fort Hood.
Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, said Lopez opened fire Wednesday with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was purchased recently, but was not authorized to be brought on post.
According to III Corps policy, all privately owned weapons must be registered at the visitor center before owners enter the installation.
“Evaluation of the necessity to carry a firearm shall be made considering this expectation weighed against the possible consequences of accidental or indiscriminate use of firearms,” according to Defense Department policy.
Deborah McKeon with FME News Service contributed to this report.