Remarks from today’s Ft. Hood press conference

CSA SA Fort HoodU.S. Army photo by Eric Martinez, 13th Public Affairs Detachment

I’m Army Secretary John McHugh. I want to make a few comments and then turn the microphones over to the Chief of Staff of the Army General George Casey.

All morning, the Chief of Staff, Mrs. Casey, myself, and other representatives from the Army Staff, from the Pentagon, have been here at Fort Hood – have had the opportunity to tour with General Cone and Mrs. Cone and his command staff. We have had the chance to go to the processing center, the site of the incident, and received a full brief from a variety of law enforcement agencies who have been involved in this situation – DES, CID, FBI, local police, Texas Rangers and others who are working seamlessly together and we so deeply deeply appreciate that. After that, our party traveled to Darnell (Army Medical Center), to hear from the medical staff as to the condition of those who have been wounded and those who are still in treatment . The Chief and I and Mrs. Casey had the chance to visit those both still in the intensive care unit and on the general ward, and thereafter, go visit with a grouping of those who were processing the Soldiers through the processing center at the time of this very very tragic incident. We thereafter went to one of the post chapels, had a chance to meet with the 36th Engineer Brigade, with the Soldiers who had an extraordinarily tough day amongst so many Soldiers who had a tough day – yesterday, 4 killed, 11 wounded, and tried to do our best to talk about how the Army Family will stand with them.

Obviously our thoughts, our prayers, are particularly with those of the fallen – the Families of the Soldiers who were killed, the Soldiers and the Families of those who were wounded in action. These are Soldiers who were preparing to do what they love, for the country that they love. And we wanted them to know, and we want America to know, that the United States Army, the United States Government writ large, stands ready to provide them every possible assistance not just today, not just through the weekend, but will undoubtedly be very troubling, very challenging times ahead.

I want to give a special thanks and a word of admiration to the first responders. Those who came when the call went out, within minutes of the shots being fired in the center. And those Soldiers who utilized their battlefield lifesaving training in the building, as the situation was still unfolding, to save lives. And we were told that those actions did indeed save lives.

A thanks to the medical personnel and professionals at Darnell, those who work at Scott & White (Memorial Hospital) and Metroplex (Adventist Hospital) and others, who have done just an incredible job pitching in and helping the Fort Hood community to respond to those challenges as well.

I want to say thank you to the President of the United States, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, all of whom have been personally involved with this situation from the first minute we were made aware of what was happening here in Texas and at Ft. Hood. And as the Secretary of Defense told the Chief and myself – every possible resource, every possible form of support will be made available to the Soldiers, the Famil(ies), the command staff here at Ft. Hood.

The Army Family is strong. But a great source of that strength is what we derive from each other. In times of crisis and challenge how we hold each other straight and how we make a difference. And we’re going to provide every necessary resource to ensure that those in need have what they need, that those in need are taken care of.

The full force of the Army stands behind General Cone. His command staff, I have to tell you, from my perspective they have done an incredible job responding to an incredibly difficult challenge. Most of all, we want the Soldiers and the Families here at Fort Hood and across every Army facility everywhere in the world to know this is a time for the Army Family to stand together. This is a time for “Army Strong” to mean what it says. And this is a time, to know that we are working, every moment, to ensure that their safety and security is met to the highest possible degree.

And with that I yield the microphones to the Chief of Staff of the Army.

Thank you Mr. Secretary. It’s been frankly an honor to accompany the Secretary to talk to the victims, their Families, and the care providers all around Fort Hood. I’ll tell you candidly this was a kick in the gut. Not only for the Fort Hood community but also for our entire Army. And the Secretary and I are here to ensure that Fort Hood has the resources they need to mount a sustained response. Because this is going to take awhile. And we want everyone here to know that the full resources of the Army and the Department of Defense are behind the men and women of the Fort Hood community.

I will tell you that across the Army in the last 24 hours, I’ve asked our leaders to come together behind the victims, their Families, and the Fort Hood community. I’ve asked them to examine their Force Protection measures, and to take appropriate action. I’ve asked them to keep their Soldiers informed, and not rush to judgment until the investigation is completed. And I’ve asked them to stay focused on their mission.

As I said, I have full confidence in the team here given the response that I’ve seen. And I have full confidence in the local community and the state and federal agencies that have fallen in here to help General Cone and to help the men and women here at Fort Hood.

Unfortunately over the past eight years, our Army has been no stranger to tragedy. But we are an Army that draws strength from adversity. And hearing the stories of courage and heroism that I heard today makes me proud to be a leader of this great Army.

I heard stories about medics, who were sitting in a graduation in a building next door, hearing the gunfire, and running to the sounds of the guns because they knew there would be wounded – in their caps and gowns.

I talked to a young private who was sitting in his pickup truck in the parking lot, who heard gunshots, went back after his buddies. And with the help of others, dragged four individuals – badly wounded individuals – into his pickup truck and drove them to the emergency room, saving their lives.

And I talked to numerous Soldiers who were wounded – giving First Aid to their fellow Soldiers. I’m very proud, not only of the men and women here at Fort Hood but of our whole Army. We take care of our own, we will grieve as a family, and we will maintain our focus on our missions around the world. And the Secretary and I would be happy to take your questions. I will tell you upfront that because of the on-going investigation, we will not be able to give particulars on the suspect or on the crime scene. So with that, (with) Mr. Secretary, we’ll take your questions.