For the second time in as many years Ft Hood was the scene of a tragic shooting, as a fellow soldier turned his firearm on his comrades and killed three and leaving 16 injured.
This tragic scene was reminiscent of the last shooting spree aboard Ft. Hood, when on November 5th, 2009, Nidal Malik Hasan, a major in the U.S. Army fatally killed 13 soldiers and wounding 30 others.
As was the case in 2009, and last week’s shooting aboard Ft. Hood, most Americans were stunned to learn that military personnel aboard military installations are barred from carrying firearms; virtually making these bases gun-free zones.
Two issues immerged from this tragedy, why aren’t military personnel armed on base and the issue of mental illness among military personnel.
First, the current policy by the Department of Defense, stemming from a 1992 Pentagon directive regarding detailed rules regarding firearms on local military bases, “It is DOD policy: To limit and control the carrying of firearms by DOD military and civilian personnel. The authorization to carry firearms shall be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DOD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried.”
With this tragedy, the Safe Military Base Act may gain momentum, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted in the aftermath that “something’s not working.”
Congressman Mike McCaul ( R ) of Texas stated in Politico, “So I think the policymakers, Congress, we need to revisit this procedure, this policy, to see if we should arm them so they can better protect themselves.”
Before we begin arming all military personnel, a level headed strategy needs to be thought through before any implementation begins.
The logistics of arming every soldier on Ft. Hood would be daunting, as this base has around 50,000 soldiers. To arm every soldier with side arms is logistically unsustainable.
Those clamoring for arming every military personnel have probably never served in the armed forces and not every military personnel are in a combat arms field. The public is largely removed from the operational culture of the military.
Some have even advocated allowing military personnel to have concealed carry permits, but unfortunately the federal government does not have a national concealed carry law, and defers to states in this matter.
Even if this was allowed each state has its own policy and some are stricter then others, as most military personnel don’t have legal residence in the state of the base they serve at.
Other appropriate security measure can be taken by arming those military personnel who are assigned to combat arms specialties. By arming these additional military personnel and providing them the requisite training can be a force multiplier in preventing this tragedy in the future.
The final aspect of this tragedy which has consistently been a struggle for the Pentagon is the mental health for the troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation it was noted that, “More than half of the 2.6 million Americans dispatched to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with physical or mental health problems stemming from their service, feel disconnected from civilian life and believe the government is failing to meet the needs of this generation’s veterans.”
The military has made tremendous strides in combating the effects of mental health among the troops, but more needs to be done. I have witnessed the problems of mental health firsthand during my own service.
Many senior officers and senior enlisted personnel are not taking this as serious as they should. Many prefer to move the personnel suffering with mental health to other commands or duties, rather than have to deal with the problem.
Instead of rhetoric and fancy programs, each command needs to take the leadership steps and address the issue straight on rather than sending the military personnel to other units or duties so they will not have to deal with it.
Dealing with mental health takes leadership; and we are not getting it! [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]