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American Forces Press Service

Prompt Fort Hood Response Saved Lives, Clark Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2010 – Two minutes and 40 seconds after a 911 call detailing a shooting at the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood, Texas, initial responders arrived on the scene, marking the first in a series of prompt reactions that spared additional casualties, an official who reviewed the events for the Defense Department said today.

A timeline of the response to the shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 43 wounded after Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly opened fire in the crowded center Nov. 5 is perhaps the one promising finding outlined in a Defense Department report published today.

“It was executed in a superb fashion, and the outcome certainly did prevent further bloodshed,” retired Navy Adm. Vern Clark, former chief of naval operations, told Pentagon reporters today. Clark and former Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. led the department’s review at the request of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The day after Gates tapped them to head up the assessment, Clark and West traveled to the central Texas Army post, where they received a briefing from Army Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, commander of 3rd Corps and Fort Hood, and his staff.

“Their report and the actions that they identified were the best that I have ever seen in 37 years of service,” Clark said. “There was lots of good news to report. The people on the base were certainly prepared, dedicated. … [These were] courageous acts, prompt acts.”

The sequence of events emerged in the course of the department’s investigation: an estimated eight minutes elapsed between the first and last shot fired by the assailant, prompting an emergency call to 911. Less than three minutes later, first responders arrived, and one and a half minutes afterward, the alleged shooter was incapacitated. Two ambulances and another response vehicle from the post hospital arrived on the scene two minutes and 50 seconds later.

Announcing key findings of the report today, Gates called the initial response “prompt and effective,” underscoring that anticipatory planning at Fort Hood for such a mass-casualty event paid dividends in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

“The first responders deserve recognition for the efforts that prevented an awful situation from becoming even worse,” Gates said in a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon.

Each official to highlight the successful response did so with qualifications, pointing out that Fort Hood’s response capability was an exception to the network of military facilities at large. Clark even suggested that the response there could have been even better.

“The speed of response was terrific,” he said. “Having said that, it is our conviction that it can be even better.”

One recommendation in the report is that the Defense Department establish milestones to track whether military facilities are prepared to handle a mass-casualty or other emergency incident, which might have raised officials’ attention to some of the outdated procedures at Fort Hood. In spite of this, Clark was forceful in his praise of the response on the military base.

“The response of the Fort Hood community in the aftermath of the tragedy there serves as a reminder of the strength of our nation and the resiliency and character of our people,” he said.

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