One Year After Chattanooga

Battle crosses for fallen service members on stage during the memorial at McKenzie Arena at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. The memorial honored the four Marines and one Sailor who died in the Navy Operational Support Center Chattanooga shooting

By MarEx 2016-07-15 23:29:03

It has been one year since the tragic attack on the recruiting station and Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee [July 16]. Four Marines and one Sailor were killed that day; another Marine was injured. The men killed were Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith and Lance Cpl. Squire Wells. The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified the shooter as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, who was slain by police on the day.

As we reflect on that day, it’s important to pay our condolences to the families, friends, fellow Marines and shipmates of those we have lost, says Captain Ray Benedict, U.S. Navy U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Fleet Anti-Terrorism / Force Protection Officer.

“It’s also important that we honor their lives by doing the best that we can to mitigate future harm to our people, platforms and installations. Since last July our efforts have been focused on enhancing force protection for off-installation activities, as well as the entire force.”

Since the tragedy, the Navy has taken measures including arming personnel, force protection enhancements for off-installation facilities, active shooter training and the establishment of mass warning systems.

“Today, all 71 off-installation Navy Operational Support Centers have qualified armed men or women standing the watch. Navy Recruiting Command has since developed plans and is in final preparation to arm watch standers at recruiting stations as well. The arming of personnel at these facilities provides both a deterrent value and a defensive capability against potential attacks,” says Benedict.

“To ensure our people are prepared to respond appropriately, quickly and with confidence to a security threat, training is critical. U.S. Fleet Forces Command issued guidance requiring all Navy personnel (active, Reserve, civilians and contractors) in the U.S. Northern Command area of responsibility to receive active shooter training within 90 days of reporting for duty, with an annual refresher from then on.”

For personnel outside the continental United States, an annual active shooter training requirement was also established. Active shooter response training was also made a focus area for the annual anti-terrorism exercise Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield held in February 2016. 

Changes have been made that specifically address anti-terrorism / force protection issues as they relate to off-installation facilities. These improvements include the development of site-specific anti-terrorism plans and incident response plans for Navy Operational Support Centers and recruiting stations. 

Navy Operational Support Center commanders are now required to complete Anti-Terrorism Level III training prior to assuming command. Similarly, a specific off-installation Anti-Terrorism Level II course was developed for Navy Operational Support Center anti-terrorism officers which will be implemented this fiscal year. 

“Importantly, Navy Recruiting Command also assigned designated security officers at each of the Navy’s 26 recruiting districts and two recruiting regions to oversee anti-terrorism / force protection programs and to help develop and implement individual response plans at their districts and stations.”

Following a series of comprehensive security engineering planning assistance visits, $80 million was allocated for physical improvements at recruiting stations (across all services) to install access controls, visual identification systems and perform physical changes to some buildings. $15 million dollars was allocated this year for physical security improvements at Navy Operational Support Centers. 

Personnel from 70 of 1366 recruiting stations have been temporarily relocated due to physical egress constraints at their facilities. Navy Recruiting Command is working through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the landlords to make physical changes to those recruiting stations, and where not possible, the plan is to move to a new location or close the station. 

“Being able to notify our personnel throughout the command in the event of an active shooter or any emergency situation is vital,” says Benedict. A mobile device-based mass notification system has now been adopted and deployed across all Navy recruiting stations to alert personnel and local law enforcement. 

Finally, all off-installation facilities were directed to review their emergency action plans with local law enforcement and first responders and to train and rehearse these plans to respond effectively to potential threats … which was accomplished by both Reserve and recruiting facilities. 

“It is important to note that we remain incredibly grateful for the quick and effective action by the first responders in Chattanooga,” said Benedict. “The experience and lessons from that day have been used to press into action relationships between the Navy and first responders across the force,” he said.

“Our Navy today operates with a higher sense of awareness of the threats in our environment and are better trained and equipped to mitigate the harm and damage from a similar attack to the one in Chattanooga.”

Naval Support Activity Bethesda Security personnel respond during an active shooter drill as part of the Navy-wide Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield exercise Feb. 4, 2016. Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield is an anti-terrorism force protection exercise designed to train Navy security forces to respond to threats to installations and units. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Hank Gettys/Released)


The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.