More than a recruiting slogan
It is too early to know much definitively about the shootings at Fort Hood; first reports are often inaccurate. The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command will undoubtedly conduct a thorough investigation, and, as a former military police officer, I am confident that the system of military justice will proceed accordingly.
There are two things that are apparent even with limited information: It was a tragedy of heart-breaking proportion, and it was also a disgraceful betrayal. Much attention will rightly be focused on Major Hasan, as we try to discern his motives, but observers might also learn something by watching how the Army and the nearby community respond.
Stories are already emerging about on-scene courage and competence. Department of the Army police officer Kimberly Munley reportedly moved toward the sound of the guns and ended the threat despite suffering multiple gunshot wounds. Well-trained soldiers aided first responders and saved lives in an extremely chaotic situation.
I suspect that Army leaders will proceed on multiple fronts. They will see to the needs of the victims and their families, honor the fallen, and investigate the factors that contributed to the event. We should anticipate a hard look at the military mental-health system and questions about why Hasan was not dealt with more effectively before he decided to take up arms against his comrades.
Army leaders will ask difficult questions, learn, and make necessary changes. They will do so under the scrutiny of elected officials who will vigorously exercise their oversight roles. If done well, all of the above will serve to bolster the trust, faith, and confidence of our soldiers and the public.
Watch also how a great American community responds in support of the soldiers at Fort Hood. The people of Killeen, Copperas Cove, and Central Texas are exceptionally patriotic and caring. The outpouring of grief and support has already begun. Americans can join with them and emulate their example.
It is easy to lead when things are going well, but leadership is needed the most when the situation is dire. Tragedies such as we are now experiencing at Fort Hood test the character and resilience of organizations and their leaders. This is one of those times when "Army Strong" is more than a recruiting slogan.
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