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Death on Base: The Fort Hood Massacre

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When Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan walked into the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center and opened fire on soldiers within, he perpetrated the worst mass shooting on a United States military base in our countryحs history.وDeath on Baseوis an in-depth look at the events surrounding the tragic mass murder that took place on November 5, 2009, and an investigation into the causes and influences that factored into the attack.

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1. Station Thirteen

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1. Station Thirteen

05 November 2009

1320 hours

Soldier Readiness Processing Center

Fort Hood, Texas

L

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction.

~Blaise Pascal

atoya Williams glanced up from her desk at Station Thirteen in the Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP) Center. Standing in front of her was a pudgy, bald soldier in fatigues. “Ma’am,” he said, “Major Parrish has an emergency and she needs you.”

Williams wondered why on earth this man, who she didn’t know, would be telling her to go find Maj. Parrish. She glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was twenty-five minutes after one o’clock.1

“Ma’am, she said it was urgent.”

Williams looked at the embroidered name tab on his shirt: “Hasan.”

His insignia told her that he was a major.

Just as she got up and moved toward Major Parrish’s office, forty-four year-old petroleum supply specialist Paul Martin walked into the crowded Fort Hood SRP Center hoping to be cleared for deployment.2 He had completed the maze of inoculations, dental and eye checkups, a complete physical, and most of the endless paperwork required for clearance. Three hundred soldiers were packed into the center and chairs were at a premium in the congested space at Station

 

1. Station Thirteen

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Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction.
~Blaise Pascal

Latoya Williams glanced up from her desk at Station Thirteen in the Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP) Center. Standing in front of her was a pudgy, bald soldier in fatigues. “Ma'am,” he said, “Major Parrish has an emergency and she needs you.”

Williams wondered why on earth this man, who she didn't know, would be telling her to go find Maj. Parrish. She glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was twenty-five minutes after one o'clock.1

“Ma'am, she said it was urgent.”

Williams looked at the embroidered name tab on his shirt: “Hasan.” His insignia told her that he was a major.

Just as she got up and moved toward Major Parrish's office, forty-four year-old petroleum supply specialist Paul Martin walked into the crowded Fort Hood SRP Center hoping to be cleared for deployment.2 He had completed the maze of inoculations, dental and eye checkups, a complete physical, and most of the endless paperwork required for clearance. Three hundred soldiers were packed into the center and chairs were at a premium in the congested space at Station Thirteen. Martin finally spotted a place in the fourth row where he could sit and finish filling out the last of the required deployment forms. Although his unit had been mobilized from New Jersey the week before, Martin had come straight to Fort Hood from his hometown of Adel, Georgia, where he had just buried his father. A tall fit man, a basketball star in his youth, Martin and his cousin joined the Army right out of high school.3 After twenty-seven years Martin still loved the disciplined life of a soldier. That Army discipline kept him in shape, and it may very well be that his physical conditioning saved his life.4

 

2. King of the Hill

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The aftermath of George Hennard's shooting rampage at Luby's in Killeen, Texas. Photo courtesy of The Temple Daily Telegram.

Those who are bent on wrongdoing will in time come to know how evil a turn their destinies are bound to take!
~Inspire Magazine

Minutes after the shooting began at the SRP Center, Fort Hood was locked down. Without access to the base, reporters descended on the Killeen City Hall where spokeswoman Hilary Shine briefed them on the unfolding situation.

“Unfortunately, this is a day we had dreaded, we are in an emergency situation,” Ms. Shine said in a statement to the media. “Every time you hear of a mass casualty situation in Killeen, you think of Luby's and twenty-six people who were killed. Here in City Hall, it's panic.”1

“We know the terrible impact and not knowing how it will end is gut wrenching right now. Fort Hood is set up as its own city, they have their own fire, police, SWAT…they have asked for EMT and ambulance assistance.” Shine added that the ambulances were having “issues” getting on and off base.2

 

3. American Dream

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death on baSe: the fort hood MaSSacre playing sports to Santa at Christmas.” Nader Hasan characterized their childhoods as the “perfect American Dream, growing up, being

American, being a kid,” and stated that neither of them spoke Arabic nor were they particularly religious.3

In 1987 Malik and Nora Hasan opened the

Capitol Restaurant in the historic Roanoke City

Market, the “oldest continuously operating open-air market in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”4

According to the Roanoke Times, the Hasans’ restaurant “was a dive beer hall and diner with a bad reputation and a lot of down-and-out regulars” and a place where “patrons enjoyed greasy, blue-plate speNidal Hasan as a cials and sipped on Old Milwaukees…while a juketeenager. Photo courtesy of the box played Motown.”5

Roanoke Times.

The Hasans embarked on several other enterprises in Roanoke: Hot Dog Queen on Church Avenue, Parrish Grocery on Fourth Street, Community Grocery on Elm Avenue, and, in 1995, after closing the Capitol Restaurant, they opened the upscale Mount

 

3. American Dream

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Walter Reed Army Medical Center Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

~Edmund Burke

Nidal Malik Hasan was born to Palestinian immigrants in Arlington, Virginia, on September 8, 1970. Nidal's father, Malik Awadallah Hasan, emigrated to the United States in 1962 at age sixteen and his mother, Hanan Ismail (Nora), followed in 1963. The couple enjoyed a large close-knit extended family in Virginia and was very quickly indoctrinated in all things “American.”1

One year and two days after Nidal's birth, the Hasans welcomed Anas Malik to the family and settled into an apartment on Lancelot Lane in northwest Roanoke. Eleven years later the Hasans’ third son, Eyad Malik, was born. Nidal and Eyad adopted American names—Michael and Eddie.2

In an interview with ABC News, Nidal Hasan's cousin, Nader Hasan, maintained that he and his cousin experienced “a typical American upbringing in suburban Virginia, from birthday parties to playing sports to Santa at Christmas.” Nader Hasan characterized their childhoods as the “perfect American Dream, growing up, being American, being a kid,” and stated that neither of them spoke Arabic nor were they particularly religious.3

 

4. The Great Place

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Death on Base: The Fort Hood Massacre tracized. This fundamental conservatism can be traced back to central

Texas’s early Christian heritage.

Spanish Roman Catholic missionaries first came to central Texas in the early seventeenth century to provide religious instruction to Native

Americans. Spain declared Catholicism the official religion of Texas in

1820 and all protestant affiliations were outlawed. Despite the Catholic church’s efforts to keep them out, by the early eighteen hundreds protestant clergy flowed into Texas—first circuit-riding Methodists who preached in private homes, then Baptists who arrived by wagon train, followed by Presbyterians. Protestant colleges sprang up in central

Texas, namely Baylor University in Waco, University of Mary HardinBaylor in Belton, and Southwestern University in Georgetown.1

Central Texas also spawned noteworthy evangelical cults like the Sanctified Sisters in Belton who believed in the revolutionary concept of womens’ equality, and the Davidians, an Adventist reform splinter group of the 1920s which gave rise to the fundamentalist Branch Davidians. In the early 1990s, members of the Branch

 

4. The Great Place

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Photo by John Porterfield

A man is but the product of his thoughts—what he thinks, he becomes.
~Mahatma Gandhi

Nidal Hasan must have wondered if he had been transported into Dante's inferno when he arrived in Killeen, Texas, in July 2009. It was a blistering month with daytime high temperatures registering in the low 100's. The wide expanses of concrete freeways and parking lots coupled with a paucity of vegetation were reminiscent of an alien desert when compared to the verdant rolling hills and mild weather that he left behind in Maryland.

Like the Washington, D.C. area, Killeen and its bedroom communities are diverse in population and culture—the abundance of ethnic restaurants is a testament to the melting pot typical of a city where soldiers tend to stay put when they leave the military. But Killeen is not cosmopolitan in its politics, social mores, or in its cultural acceptance. Political affiliations flourish right of center—liberal ideologies are not tolerated, uniformity is celebrated, and individual differences are ostracized. This fundamental conservatism can be traced back to central Texas's early Christian heritage.

 

5. Rage against the Machine

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Starz Strip Club in Killeen, Texas Photo by John Porterfield Photo by John Porterfield

I will do such things, What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be The terrors of the earth.
~King Lear, Act II, Scene IV

Nidal Hasan may not have been successful in finding a wife but he certainly demonstrated his appreciation of the female form when he visited the Killeen strip club, Starz, on the evenings of Thursday, October 29 and Friday, October 30. He had visited Starz before and he knew that he would not be able to buy alcoholic beverages there. He stopped at a convenience store on his way and bought a couple of six packs of Bud Lite—not for himself, but for the ten dancers who curled their bodies around floor-to-ceiling poles and performed nude. He also stopped at his bank and got a wad of five dollar bills. Hasan preferred to go to Starz because the people with whom he worked did not frequent this particular club.1

Starz is a non-descript, shabby strip joint located just down the street from the main gate at Fort Hood and next door to Guns Galore. It's smaller and noisier than most of the other clubs that dot the area around Fort Hood. Hasan pulled into the Starz parking lot at half past six, just thirty minutes after it opened, and handed manager Matthew Jones the fifteen dollar cover. He bought a bucket of ice to keep the beer cold and settled down alone at a rear table. As each girl finished her dance Hasan politely got up and walked to the stage, tipped her five dollars and handed her a beer. He took quite a liking to a blonde stripper named Paige. He asked her for a three-song nude lap dance in a private room and paid the fifty dollar charge without hesitation. He purchased a total of three lap dances during his two visits, two from Paige and one from another stripper.2

 

5. Rage Against the Machine

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Starz Strip Club in Killeen, Texas

Photo by John Porterfield

5. Rage Against the Machine

N

I will do such things,

What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be

The terrors of the earth.

~King Lear, Act II, Scene IV

idal Hasan may not have been successful in finding a wife but he certainly demonstrated his appreciation of the female form when he visited the Killeen strip club, Starz, on the evenings of Thursday, October 29 and Friday, October 30. He had visited

Starz before and he knew that he would not be able to buy alcoholic beverages there. He stopped at a convenience store on his way and bought a couple of six packs of Bud Lite—not for himself, but for the ten dancers who curled their bodies around floor-to-ceiling poles and performed nude. He also stopped at his bank and got a wad of five dollar bills. Hasan preferred to go to Starz because the people with whom he worked did not frequent this particular club.1

Starz is a non-descript, shabby strip joint located just down the street from the main gate at Fort Hood and next door to Guns Galore.

 

6. A Kick in the Gut

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First responders use a table as a stretcher to transport a wounded soldier to an awaiting ambulance at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. Photo by Sgt. Jason R. Krawczyk, III Corp, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Soldiers responded to the shooting as they had been trained to do in a combat zone—they jumped inside the line of fire and risked their own lives so that they could rescue their battle buddies felled by Nidal Hasan's bullets. They dragged and carried the wounded to sheltered areas and ripped their own clothing into makeshift tourniquets, bandages, and slings. They performed CPR and comforted the victims. Several of the rescuers were wounded or killed attempting to save the lives of their fellow soldiers. When the bullets stopped, they loaded up the injured survivors in their own cars and trucks and drove them the two miles to Carl R. Darnall Medical Center. One soldier grabbed a wounded friend, threw him over his shoulders in a fireman's carry, and ran almost two miles to the hospital, never once slowing down.1

 

6. A Kick in the Gut

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death on baSe: the fort hood MaSSacre

Pfc. Jeffrey Pearsall was sitting in his truck in the SRP Center parking lot waiting for his buddy, Marquest Smith, who had gone in for a quick allergy shot. Smith was filling out paperwork for his injection when he heard a yell followed by the unmistakable sound of gunfire.

He grabbed the clerk who was helping him and pushed her under a desk. When there was a lull in the barrage, Smith cautiously emerged

Detectives assigned to the Fort Hood Directorate of Emergency Sevices respond Nov. 5,

2009, to Nidal Hasan shooting rampage in the post’s deployment readiness center. Photo by Andrew Evans, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

from the cubicle. He saw a sea of bodies—he estimates twenty to thirty—and tables and chairs strewn around the room. He quickly surveyed the wounded and dead soldiers and began pulling the injured out of the building. Several medics whose graduation was interrupted at the Howze Theater next door rushed into the center and began treating the wounded. Smith suddenly realized that the shooter was still inside the building and had spotted him. “He turned towards me and started shooting. I had my back turned towards him and I ran to the door. I could hear bullets going past me,” Smith says. He later found a bullet lodged in the heel of his right combat boot.2

 

7. Judgment Day

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Death on Base: The Fort Hood massacre dent assessment of the FBI’s strengths and weaknesses in dealing with situations like the Fort Hood shooting.

III Corps and Fort Hood After Action Review (AAR)

Just twelve days after the shooting, Fort Hood issued its “After

Action Review,” an assessment of its management response to Nidal

Hasan’s shooting rampage. The report began by focusing upon the first response to the MASCAL and was critical of the Bell County

Communications Center and the fact that 9-1-1 calls are handled by a centralized county agency. The report’s recommendation regarding emergency calls was to insure that base personnel had the Fort Hood

Directorate of Emergency Services (DES) Dispatch in their speed dial

(in addition to 9-1-1) in order to bypass the BCCC. At the same time, the review also cited a lack of a “synchronized communications architecture and plan” as problematic because Army personnel relied upon various means of communication, such as a specified FM radio frequency, cell phone, and DES two-way radios. Having no centralized “command net” contributed to the chaos. The report suggests that the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) should serve as command-central and should utilize their pre-established FM communications frequency.1

 

7. Judgment Day

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SRP Center was demolished in February 2014. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

 

 

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself.
~Richard P. Feynman

While Nidal Hasan lay paralyzed from the waist down in a hospital room at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, leadership teams from the DoD, the Army, Fort Hood, and the FBI retreated to their respective corners behind closed doors to assess the situation. They were in full damage control mode.

The Senate's Homeland Security Committee convened and ordered an investigation.

Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, called for a fact-finding probe into the events leading to the Fort Hood shooting and appointed two Defense officials, former Army Secretary Togo West and former Navy Chief Vernon Clark, to lead the study. Additionally, he instructed them to make recommendations on ways to prevent another attack in the future.

FBI Director, Robert Mueller, requested assistance from former CIA/FBI Director, Judge William Webster, in conducting an independent assessment of the FBI's strengths and weaknesses in dealing with situations like the Fort Hood shooting.

 

8. Ticking Time Bombs

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Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Department of Defense's only maximum security prison and where Nidal Hasan is currently on death row. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

By the work one knows the workman.
~Jean de La Fontaine

Over 14,000 people were murdered in the United States in 2013, a four percent decrease from 2012 and a fourteen percent decline from 2003.1 The incidence of mass murders also declined with twenty-four occurrences in the past decade, down from forty-three cases in the 1990s.2 Large-scale mass homicides such as the Fort Hood massacre are rare events that are sensationalized by the national print and broadcast media. Mass killings are so disconcerting and shocking that they become locked into our collective psyche, leading us to believe that there are many more of these events than there actually are. Because multiple homicides are increasingly committed with semi-automatic firearms with high-capacity magazines, there has been an increase in the total numbers of victims killed and injured.3

 

8. Ticking Time Bombs

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Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Department of Defense’s only maximum security prison and where Nidal Hasan is currently on death row. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

8. Ticking Time Bombs

O

By the work one knows the workman.

~Jean de La Fontaine

ver 14,000 people were murdered in the United States in

2013, a four percent decrease from 2012 and a fourteen percent decline from 2003.1 The incidence of mass murders also declined with twenty-four occurrences in the past decade, down from forty-three cases in the 1990s.2 Large-scale mass homicides such as the Fort Hood massacre are rare events that are sensationalized by the national print and broadcast media. Mass killings are so disconcerting and shocking that they become locked into our collective psyche, leading us to believe that there are many more of these events than there actually are. Because multiple homicides are increasingly committed with semi-automatic firearms with high-capacity magazines, there has been an increase in the total numbers of victims killed and injured.3

 

9. Playing with Fire

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Death on Base: The Fort Hood Massacre holding chancellorships at two universities. He was financially well-off and politically connected which enabled the family to enjoy an upscale lifestyle. Anwar was sent to the best private schools in Yemen and received both academic and religious training. Having spent the first seven years of his life in the United States, he was fluent in English and

Arabic, an important skill that would serve him well later in his life.2

After high school graduation, in 1991, Awlaki returned to the

United States on a foreign student scholarship to study engineering at

Colorado State University. Although his family could afford to pay his expenses, Awlaki lied about his U.S. citizenship in order to qualify for financial aid. He lived a typical austere student’s life in a one bedroom apartment and drove an old car in serious need of repair. Although he prayed at the Fort Collins mosque, he did not appear to be particularly devout. That changed when he visited Afghanistan in 1993 and saw first-hand the devastation wrought by the Soviets during their ten year war against the mujahideen. The Soviets ravaged the country and left most of its citizens destitute. Awlaki found the plight of the Afghanis depressing.3

 

9. Playing with Fire

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Excerpted from Inspire magazine

 

And inspire the believers to fight.
~Inspire magazine

It only takes a spark to ignite a combustible material and the silver-tongued preacher, Anwar al Awlaki, lit a fire inside a grieving Nidal Hasan. Five months after Awlaki captivated worshipers at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque with his eloquent sermons, cancer-ravaged Nora Hasan died. Perhaps sensing the darkness that would overcome her son, she made Nidal promise to find God. For Hasan, Awlaki's sermons opened a pathway to Allah.

Anwar al Awlaki was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in 1971. His father, Nasser, an agricultural economics student at New Mexico State University, came to the United States from Yemen on a student visa to work on a graduate degree. With his parents rooted in the conservative religious traditions of the nomadic Bedouin Awlak tribe of southern Yemen, young Anwar was more likely to hear stories of martyrs and the mujahideen than Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh.1

 

10. One Nation’s Terrorist Is Another Nation’s Freedom Fighter

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Death on Base: The Fort Hood Massacre

In 2005 the Defense Personnel Security Research Center (DPSRC) defined terrorism as “anyone who [is] sympathetic to, or a member of, a group that could be characterized as both disloyal and hostile toward the U.S. government.” The DPSRC included “main foreign

(militant jihadists) and domestic groups (White Supremacists, White

Nationalists, and domestic militias) whose past and recent actions and current ideologies render them particularly hostile and disloyal toward the U.S. government. The report cited “attempted or actual enlistment of disloyal and hostile persons.”2

The U.S. Department of State defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.”3

The FBI, however, employs a broader definition of terrorism, calling it the “unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”4

 

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