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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2014  03:08:57 AM

In the line of fire: Fort Hood first responders heroically save lives

Email   Print   Share By Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante, STB, III Corps
November 12, 2009 | News
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First responders use a table as a stretcher to transport a wounded Soldier to an awaiting ambulance at Fort Hood Nov. 5. Sgt. Jason R. Krawczyk, III Corps Public Affairs
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Bystanders crouch for cover as shots rang out from Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center Nov. 5, as law enforcement officers run toward the sound of the gun. The alleged gunman killed 13 people and wounded 43 more in the incident. Jeramie Sivley, Fort Hood Visual Information
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Soldiers participating in a college graduation ceremony broke away from the celebration to treat another wounded Soldier on the steps of Fort Hood’s Howze Theater in the aftermath of an attack by an alleged gunman. Jeramie Sivley, Fort Hood Visual Information
“Pop, pop, pop.” Those were the sounds Fort Hood’s first responders heard Nov. 5 when they arrived at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center.

Inside the center, excitement and anxiety about an upcoming deployment were tossed aside and replaced by broken glass, blood and bullets when a lone gunman allegedly shot and killed 12 Soldiers and one civilian employee while wounding 43 others at the post deployment readiness center.

Although news reports are constantly running updates on the incident, a group of Soldiers, first responders and civilians lived the live feed.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh said it was the heroic actions of Fort Hood’s first responders that prevented a bad situation from getting worse.

“Their actions saved lives,” he said during a press conference here Friday.

Inside the deployment processing center, among blood-draw stations and rows of waiting chairs, innocent people were dying. The gunman was shooting into the crowded screening area. Panicked Soldiers, desperate to survive, were breaking out windows and trying to find a way to safety.

Hoping to bring an end to the chaos, Sgt. Kimberly Munley, an officer with Fort Hood’s Department of Emergency Services, and Senior Sgt. Mark Todd, K-9 Division, DES, engaged in the fight. According to Todd, as soon as officers arrived at the scene, people were pointing them in the direction of the shooter. The gunman reportedly started firing on Todd and Munley, who took cover behind a vehicle. Munley left her cover to pursue the shooter and Todd followed around the other side of the building, where the shooter was hiding.

When Todd looked around the corner of the building, he saw Munley on the ground. She had been shot. The gunman was hiding behind a light post and firing at people who were fleeing the scene. Todd recalls firing at the man before he fell. Todd said he then confiscated the shooter’s weapons and cuffed him. The entire exchange between Todd and the gunman lasted less than 45 seconds, he said.

“We did just like we were trained to do … shouting commands and working as a team,” Todd said. “We had no time to feel anything, just to react.”

While law enforcement officers drew fire away from the trapped Soldiers, medics from the site and others at the nearby graduation ceremony at Howze Theater began treating the wounded as best they could. Plastic tables were used as makeshift stretchers to move the wounded from the bloody building and get them evacuated to medical facilities.

Todd then helped provide lifesaving care to wounded troops who were scattered inside and outside of the readiness area. Afterward, Todd had the time to reflect on what had happened.

“I felt so much for the wounded and the dead and their families,” he said. “I didn’t feel guilty about shooting someone while doing my job; the only guilty feeling I had was that we didn’t get there sooner.”

After ambulances cleared out the wounded and most of the concerned crowd had dispersed, units across Fort Hood began the emotionally exhausting mission of dealing with their losses. The 36th Engineer Brigade had approximately 200 Soldiers at the site working on deployment preparations.

Less than two hours later, the engineers had more Soldiers wounded and killed than any other unit on post during the incident.

“Every member of our organization was impacted by this tragic incident in some way,” said Lt. Col. Jason E. Kelly, deputy commander, 36th Engineer Brigade. “Commanders and senior noncommissioned officers were able to visit with these brave young men and women last night and their spirits are extremely high. These Soldiers represent everything that is good about America.”

Many of the Soldiers visited by the brigade leadership downplayed the severity of their injuries. The wounded showed more concern about the welfare of their fellow troops and families, Kelly said.

The post and local community are making sure those Soldiers are taken care of and helping put those Soldiers’ minds at ease. A Fort Hood Grieving Center was established on the Resiliency Campus with both chaplains and counselors available to Soldiers and families.

“We take care of our own. We will grieve as a family,” said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey during a press conference on Sadowski Field.. “We will stay focused on our missions around the world.”
 
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