President, Top Leaders to Attend Fort Hood Service
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2009 President Barack Obama will join Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. at Fort Hood, Texas, tomorrow for a ceremony to honor the victims of the Nov. 5 shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 38 wounded.
Many of those wounded in the attack have recovered enough to attend the ceremony, said Army Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, commander of 3rd Corps and Fort Hood.
“We still have 15 of our great soldiers hospitalized; eight are in intensive care, and seven are in wards,” Cone said during a news conference at Fort Hood today. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and their families during this difficult time.”
Cone said he is most concerned that the healing phase begins. “I think what’s absolutely critical is that we understand the nature of what has happened here,” he told reporters. “There are probably about 600 people who were somehow directly touched by this incident.”
Cone said authorities’ initial focus in these last three days has been working on getting those 600 people the right behavioral assessments and counseling.
Now, officials are dealing with the larger population at the sprawling post. “I had a very good session yesterday with … the civilian personnel and the soldiers who worked at the soldier readiness site, and had a good opportunity to address their concerns,” Cone said. “And … they began their processing through this critical-incident debrief process.”
Soldiers are among the best prepared to deal with the stress of this incident, the general noted, because they have had training and experience. “Many of us are used to being in theater, and something like this happens, and we come back right away. We get on with the mission. We do the memorial service, we send our comrades home, and then we move on with the mission,” he said.
But dealing with the civilians and families poses more of a challenge. They’ve always considered the base to be a safe place, Cone noted, and now officials must devise ways to help them. “We are right now in the process of executing a comprehensive program to address the needs of all of these populations,” he said.
Officials also must find ways to help soldiers who suffered post-traumatic stress from earlier combat-related incidents, Cone said. They, too, saw Fort Hood as a safe place. “We don't really know what the impact of something like this has on them,” the general acknowledged.
The Army has mobilized resources to help, with 27 military family life consultants, 18 combat stress control teams, 41 behavioral health specialists and 57 ministry support teams on the ground at Fort Hood.
“We have additional resources coming in as we need it,” Cone said. “As General Casey tells me, the entire resources of the United States Army are at the disposal of Fort Hood and its population to help deal with the impact of this event.”
In related news, the Army Criminal Investigation Command is seeking anyone who may have left the area of the shooting with gunshot damage to their vehicles or clothing, and anyone who may inadvertently have left the scene with material that could be used as evidence -- shell casings inside their boot, for example.
The evidence would aid CID and FBI investigators, officials said.
Officials said gunshot-damaged material needs to be inspected by the soldier's or civilian's supervisor or chain of command, and commanders or first sergeants must verify that the person providing the evidence was at the scene.