Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was the lone shooter in the Fort Hood incident. Hasan, 39, came to Fort Hood after leaving Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington where he completed disaster and preventive psychiatry. He reportedly received poor performance evaluations. It was also reported that Hasan was under the FBI’s radar six months prior to the shooting due to Internet postings discussing suicide bombings and other threats. Nonetheless, the FBI was never able to prove that he was the author of the postings. Hasan was born in Maryland and received his medical degree at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda. Hasan was said to be acting strangely on the day of and the days leading up to the attack. A neighbor reported that he usually heard Hasan praying in the mornings, but on this particular morning he did not hear him. Hasan also gave away all of his possessions from his apartment and told neighbors that he was being deployed in a few days. Hasan was scheduled to be deployed overseas on November 28th of 2009, but no official motive for the shooting has been identified. Most strangely, Hasan did not leave near his fellow soldiers. He chose another part of town that was considered a “run down” area or an area that was not becoming of someone of his status. Although 14 campus security officers were on duty at Fort Hood at the time of the incident and the 56 officers of the local police were located 0.7 miles from the incident, authorities were unable to stop the shooter for the time of the massacre, which lasted two hours and 36 minutes. During the shooting, 12 people were killed and 31 were wounded.
Fort Hood is located in central Texas and is the largest military base in the world. At the time of the incident, it was considered to have the most deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan for all U.S. branches of the military. The people working in and around Fort Hood were accustomed to the stress of longer and re-deployment, post-dramatic stress syndrome, and brain injuries. The typical life of a soldier is governed by discipline because they are empowered with the no how and authority to kill. Discipline is a much need character trait for anyone who is exposed to danger and death at any time. Nidal Malik Hasan was a typical soldier who became a victim to the atrocities of war and mental indoctrination; leading up to and on the day of the shooting he displayed many characteristics of a ticking time bomb that were overlooked or ignored by proper authorities.
The FBI was investigating Nidal Malik Hasan prior to this shooting. It was reported that he was making contact with a known terrorist leader via emails. Former, FBI director, William Webster reportedly stated that the FBI investigation was rushed and incomplete. Webster said that he believes in an effort to not discriminate against Muslims by focusing on Islamic threats, the few people who recognized that Hasan was a threat ignored or marginalized it. First there were the poor evaluations Hasan received while doing his internship and then there were the reported display of radical ideals. Hasan had even been labeled as belligerent and paranoid by fellow faculty and students. One student even reported that Hasan had openly expressed admiration for the teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki. Immediately after the shooting, Anwar al-Awlaki posted information praising Hasan for doing a noble job and following teachings of Islam. All of these circumstances lead to what the military terms the “insider threat”. According to Senator Joseph Lieberman, the threat of terrorism against the military on U.S. soil has increased considerably since 2006 (Bennett & Leibsohn, 2011). A great deal of these homeland threats are categorized by people living in the United States, but having affiliation with other countries and know terrorist groups. According to the military, the definition of insider threat is:
Anyone who is or has been authorized access to a DOD information system, whether military member, a DOD civilian employee, or employee of another Federal agency or the private sector. A person with placement and access who intentionally causes loss or degradation of resources or capabilities or compromises the ability of an organization to accomplish its mission through espionage, providing support to international terrorism, or the unauthorized release or disclosure of information about plans and intention of U.S. military forces ( Fort Hood Army Internal Review Team ).
Accordingly, several people in leadership roles failed to take appropriate actions to prevent this tragedy from happening. According to Bennett & Leibsohn, “No one single event directly led to the tragedy at Fort Hood, certain officers clearly failed to meet the high standards expected of their profession” (2011). Several reports prior to the incident indicated the Hasan had been deemed un-professional and displaying radical thoughts, but no actions were taken. Even though these leaders properly documented these findings, Hasan continued to work; he was promoted, and even reassigned to a new duty-Fort Hood. However, one leader emerged in the midst of this tragedy. Sgt. Munley, a female officer, was able to take Hasan down even after being wounded herself.
Ironically, just before this incident occurred, the health community had performed many planning activities with the military medical partners to ensure proper mitigation in the event of a tragedy. This previous preparedness and communication between the partners is what led to the rapid notification and response during the shooting. During the shooting, and immediately after the shooting, resources were rallied in a short period of time. Both parties had spent extensive time practicing, writing plans, and training together before the event. The Regional Hospital Disaster Plan was implemented immediately after the confirmation of a shooter at Fort Hood. Through practice, the responders were very familiar with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program; the program was implemented immediately and several homes and schools were evacuated. The uses of technological systems were very important too. Responders were able to communicate and maintain awareness to all parties involved. They used EMSystem to notify partners of the emergency the WebEOC, a web based system to communicate with each other during the crisis.
Research suggests that terror attacks decreases the trust that average citizens have in the government, leaders, and officials. There has been widespread concern that there will be another terrorist attack in great magnitude. Looking back, many people felt that smaller attacks like the one in Fort Hood were only leading up to the culminating attack that occurred on 911. Nationally, 41 percent of Americans lack confidence that the government is providing adequate
airport security, 47 percent lack confidence that the government can protect the water
supply from chemical or biological attacks, 37% percent lack confidence that the government can protect nuclear facilities, and more than half 51 percent lack confidence that the government can protect against dirty bombs (explosive devices that release radiation) (Fort Hood Army Internal Review Team ).
The government was criticized for not labeling the attack as terrorism. Senator Lieberman said that the conclusions should not be drawn until after a thorough investigation had been completed, but both he and Attorney General Michael Mukasey described the shooting as a terrorist attack (Mills, Grimaila, Peterson, & Bates, p. 1-19). The general public was even further outraged when they discovered that the Army prohibits soldiers from carrying personal firearms inside bases, yet all weapons on the base are locked away unless being used in trainings. So, essentially the general public felt like soldiers were sitting ducks on Army bases because they have no way to defend themselves if something were to happen. Specialist Jerry Richard was quoted saying that Army policy leaves soldiers vulnerable to violent assaults. He went on to say, “Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can’t even defend yourself” (Mills, Grimaila, Peterson, & Bates, p. 12-19 ). Up until this point, many citizens felt like a military base was the safest place to be in the Nation. President Obama’s initial response to the shooting came during his Tribal Nations Conference. He later delivered the memorial eulogy, which gained rave reviews from the public. Many deemed it the speech he had ever done. President Obama gained popularity as a caring and affectionate person after this incident. The way President Obama reacted to the incident allowed people to see him as a real person. Also, former FBI, William Webster issued a report that had over a dozen areas listed that needed further attention. He listed complaints like: information sharing, failure to follow up leads, and failure of the FBI headquarters to coordinate two working on leads about Hasan.
It’s very obvious that the world is in crisis when dealing with leadership. The nation, industry, and even society are in desperate need of exceptional leaders who will not succumb to the pressures of being in power. Fear is the major obstacle that hinders leaders. They may be afraid of retaliation or just afraid of not being able to please certain people with political power. Leaders master their emotions and display the will to survive in the midst of tragedy and despair. When analyzing the paradigms of a good leader, one knows that leaders display different qualities. In the case of the Fort Hood shooting, three people emerged showing leadership qualities in a terrible situation. First, on the day of the shooting, Sgt. Munley became a leader. Although she was wounded, she was able to use her fire arm to remove the threat. This is important because, women are new to the military forces. Being a woman in the military can be a difficult task. Many women are still met with prejudice and stereotypes. For example, “Stereotypes often are a potent barrier to women’s advancement to positions of leadership” (Gross, p. 455). Although Hasan was met by several officers and civilians in an attempt to stop the attack, it was a woman who was able to wound him in such a way that he was unable to carry one. Next, former FBI, William Webster, emerged as a leader who was willing to speak the truth about the situation. He ordered an extensive investigation into the events leading up to the deadly shooting at Fort Hood. He expressed his disgust in the findings that several people had the opportunity to stop the potentially deadly massacre if only they had acted. Most importantly, he expressed that he felt that the FBI was mostly to blame because of its lack of close attention to the issue. Several of the people who had encountered Hasan had documented great concern with some of his actions, but no actions were ever taken. He ordered the FBI to make drastic changed in its policy for dealing with a potential insider threat. Finally, President Obama emerged as being caring and compassionate, characteristics that are rarely displayed by people in his position. Because of the task that presidents have at hand, they are often seen as straight faced and business like by nature. People rarely are able to see the emotions evoked in President Obama during the Fort Hood shooting. As a result, he gained more popularity as an outstanding leader.
Although the shooting at Fort Hood was an awful tragedy, it displayed the resiliency of the human spirit of Americans. Out of this tragedy, people have learned that everyday people are often placed in leadership roles. Being a great leader does not mean being able to do everything right, it means doing the right thing and the right time under daunting circumstances. Clearly, the Fort Hood shooting is evidence that many people in leadership roles did not properly carry out their tasks; however, considering the circumstance, the people involved did the very best that they could to save the lives of people in harm’s way. This ordeal has caused many organizations to take a close look at their policies.
Bennett, William J., and Seth Leibsohn. The Fight of Our Lives: Knowing the Enemy, Speaking the Truth and Choosing to Win the War Against Radical Islam. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011.
Fort Hood Army Internal Review Team. Final Report: Protecting Our Army Community at Home and Abroad. Washington, DC: Fort Hood Army Internal Review Team, 4 August 2010.
Gross, Terry. Wounded In Wars, Civilian Face Care: Battle At Home. The Psychoanalytical Quarterly 67, 449-473.
Mills, Robert F., Michael R. Grimaila, Gilbert L. Peterson, and Jonathan W. Butts. A Scenario-Based Approach to Mitigating the Insider Threat. ISSA Journal (May 2011): 12-19.