Mourners Gather Online in Aftermath of Ft. Hood Rampage
clared at Fort Hood, Texas, after a deadly shooting rampage that left 13 people dead and 30 wounded. A picture is now emerging of the alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Hasan,who reportedly opened fire inside a crowded medical processing center. Investigators, meanwhile, continue piecing together what happened.
Already, several instant social network support groups have sprung up. This Facebook page counts nearly 10,000 members; this one has 2,200 followers. For news and instant updates, the Killeen Daily Herald has an excellent Twitter feed: Readers can find out where the Red Cross is holding local blood drives, as well as where victims are hospitalized. The Fort Hood Sentinel has posted contact numbers for a family support hotline. On the national news side, the New York Times’ The Lede blog has an excellent roundup.
Over the next few days, you can expect to see more stories on incidents of soldier-on-soldier violence. As Peter Spiegel of the Wall Street Journal reports, such cases have been relatively rare since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, and they do not always share common motives. As I pointed out after a deadly shooting at a “stress clinic” at Camp Liberty, Iraq, the professional, all-volunteer force provides more psychological screening and family support to deployed troops than the draft military ever did.
But the incident is sure to put a renewed spotlight on the strain of repeat deployments. As Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post reports, Fort Hood has seen a high number of suicides: More than 75 suicides have been recorded there since 2003. The large number is linked, in part, to the fact that Fort Hood is the Army’s largest installation, with more than 53,000 troops. But Tyson also quotes military officials, who describe the psychological toll of repeat deployments as “unprecedented.”
The tragedy at Fort Hood may also spur discussion about another issue: firearms on U.S. bases. According to the Killeen Daily Herald, both guns allegedly used in the shootings were personal weapons. Fort Hood has regulations for registration of firearms on post — and the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center outlines the rules — but this case may prompt re-examination of policies. Earlier this year, reports of a memo requiring soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell to inform their chain of command of privately owned firearms sparked an internet uproar. That fueled conspiracy theories that the government had a nefarious plan to disarm law-abiding soldiers and citizens.
Either way, difficult days are ahead at Fort Hood. In a statement released late yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: “There is little we can say at this point to alleviate the pain or answer the many questions this event raises, but I can pledge that the Department of Defense will do everything in its power to help the Fort Hood community get through these difficult times.”
UPDATE: For an insider’s view of the Fort Hood shooting and its aftermath, BoingBoing has an interview with Amanda Kim Stairrett, the military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald. Their office is just down the road from Fort Hood, and the paper was able to get a reporter and photographer inside the gate before it was closed to media. “Everything we cover–schools, business–it’s all been touched by this,” Stairrett sa