The Nov. 5 mass shooting incident at Ft. Hood, Texas, that killed 13 and wounded 30 demonstrated two important facts: The Army takes care of its own, and nearby civilian EMS agencies have good relations with their military neighbor. JEMS has been able to confirm that Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and Killeen fire departments all sent equipment and personnel to assist Ft. Hood EMS during the worst military-base mass-casualty incident (MCI) in U.S. history.
Copperas Cove Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young, who responded to the incident and served as an EMS command officer, says, "I've never known of or seen such a huge number of unaffected military and civilian people doing first response." He described the injuries he saw as "gunshot wounds to any part of the body you can imagine."
Copperas Cove sent two ambulances, manned with four paramedics and two EMTs, and a staff vehicle to the military installation.
Young says he couldn't turn around without seeing someone helping the shooting victims. They were tearing up uniforms to make tourniquets and bandages. "Usually at an MCI, responders are outnumbered by patients," he says, adding that this time was very different. "It was very difficult to do triage, because the people helping victims were so demanding. They were focused on the victim they were helping."
Because of the rapid first response and on-scene case, transportation went extremely well. As soon as an ambulance arrived, someone would meet it, shove a patient in and say, "OK. Go."
Copperas Cove was able to perform scoop and run, transporting a patient to Metroplex Hospital in Killeen immediately on arrival, with all care rendered en route by their crew. Later, they transferred a patient from Metroplex to Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple. Scott and White is the only Level 1 trauma facility in the area.
Harker Heights Fire Department also sent a unit to Ft. Hood -- a mobile intensive care unit (MICU) staffed with two paramedics. Chief Jack Collier says his unit stayed in staging the whole time they were on scene. He says many patients were air-lifted out. Collier says Harker Heights works frequently with the Ft. Hood Fire Department and surrounding departments. Thursday was no different.
A spokesman at the Army Office of Public Affairs says that at the time of the shooting, the Soldier's Readiness Processing Center (SRPC) was full of military personnel undergoing medical examinations prior to deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Because soldiers have been redeployed so frequently during the past few years, there were bound to be some combat veterans in the group. "Anyone who has deployed before probably has experience with administering first aid for wounds," says the spokesman. Plus, all soldiers receive basic first aid training early in their U.S. Army careers and are trained to use tourniquets.(1)
During Friday's news conference from Ft. Hood, a spokesman said about 400 people were at the scene of the shooting. One of them was Young's wife, a civilian nurse working under contract at Ft. Hood. Young says bullets flew past her and at least one soldier at arm's length away from her was shot and killed. When Young joined his wife at the SRPC, he saw bullet casings all over the floor, left behind for the investigators to examine after the worst shooting on a stateside military base.
Ann Marie Lindstromis a freelance writer and contributing editor to JEMS.