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THE SITUATION ROOM
Rampage at U.S. Army Post
Aired November 5, 2009 - 17:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: We've been covering the breaking news out of Fort Hood, Texas for the past hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And this is what we know. This coming from U.S. Army Lieutenant General Bob Cone, who just briefed reporters at Fort Hood, Texas, the largest U.S. Army Base in the world. At any one time, 40,000 or 50,000 soldiers based at Fort Hood.
At around 1:30 p.m. Central time -- that would be 2:30 p.m. Eastern time -- a soldier, he says, opened fire inside what's called the Soldier Readiness Facility -- the Army Readiness Facility. Troops are doing the final paperwork, getting a little medical assistance, dental work, before they get ready to head off to war in Afghanistan or Iraq.
This -- this alleged shooter opened fire, killed 12, wounded 31. We believe all to be United States military personnel. Two other soldiers are deemed to be suspects right now. They've been apprehended. And the lockdown, though, continues out of what he describes as an abundance of caution on this huge, huge base.
But it sounds -- unless they find other suspects out there -- like they have the situation under control. But I want to caution our viewers that these are still preliminary reports and they're going to be very, very careful before they say this incident has been resolved once and for all.
Tom Foreman is here at the map, the Google Map. And you've been showing us what's going on. This is an area -- this Readiness Center here, Tom, this is where the troops get ready to head off to war.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. This is -- this is the area we're talking about. And now, Wolf, with this new information, it looks like we're really talking about a focused area here.
Remember, we had reports throughout this about some activity near the Howze Theater. We had reports at various times about activity at the softball fields. We've had reports about what might have gone on down here at the PX down here further away.
But I know from my experience around big shootings like this, that's also not uncommon, that people become -- you know, people start fleeing. People get nervous. Things happen. And many people see also sorts of things that they report, which may or may not have anything to do with it. It may all be contained in this Readiness Center here. We'll just have to find out as this -- as this progresses from this point.
Now, I did want to ask -- is the general still with us -- Wolf?
BLITZER: General Clark, are you still with us?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. ARMY (RET.), SERVED AT FORT HOOD: Yes, I am.
FOREMAN: General Clark -- General Clark, it's good to speak to you, but not under these circumstances, of course.
A question for you -- when you are in command of a base like this, at a moment like this, what are you trying to accomplish at this moment?
CLARK: You're trying to establish order. In other words, you're trying to separate out fact from fiction, get your people accounted for, get the family members safe. And the chain of command is all out there hustling and working and trying to make something happen and get the facts. So he's being besieged by lots of reports, lots of ideas. Mostly first reports...
BLITZER: All right. I'm going to in...
CLARK: ...are wrong.
BLITZER: I'm going to interrupt, General.
Here's the president.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Please, everybody, have a seat.
Let me first of all, just thank Ken and the entire Department of the Interior staff for organizing just an extraordinary conference. I want to thank my cabinet members and senior administration officials who participated today.
I hear that Dr. Joe Medicine Crow was around, so I want to give a shout-out to that Congressional Medal of Honor winner.
Good to see you.
OBAMA: My understanding is, is that you had an extremely productive conference. I want to thank all of you for coming and for your efforts. And I want to give you my solemn guarantee that this is not the end of a process, but a beginning of a process and that we are going to follow up.
OBAMA: We -- we are going to follow up. Every single member of my team understands that this is a top priority for us. I want you to know that, as I said this morning, that this is not something that we just give lip service to. And we are going to keep on working with you to make sure that the first Americans get the best possible chances in life in a way that's consistent with your extraordinary traditions and culture and values.
Now, I have to say, though, that beyond that, I had planned to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration.
But as some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas. We don't yet know all the details at this moment. We will share them as we get them.
What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.
My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood. Now, these are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and, at times give, their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.
And I've spoken to Secretary Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. And I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in. We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security -- all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure. And we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government.
In the meantime, I would ask all Americans to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers. We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. And I want all of you to know that, as commander-in-chief, that there's no greater honor, but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for and that their safety and security when they are at home is provided for.
So we are going to stay on this. But I hope, in the meantime, that all of you recognize the scope of this tragedy and keep everybody in their thoughts and prayers.
Again, thank you for your participation here today. I'm confident that this is going to be resulting in terrific work between this government and your governments in the weeks the months and years to come.
God bless you and God bless the United States of America.
OBAMA: Thank you. BLITZER: The president of the United States using the occasion of a previously scheduled meeting with Native American groups to express his deep, deep concern over what has happened in Fort Hood, Texas today -- 12 dead, 31 wounded, all U.S. military personnel. One shooter -- alleged shooter -- killed; two additional U.S. soldiers suspects. They are detained right now. This all coming from Lieutenant General Bob Cone. You heard him here in THE SITUATION ROOM explaining what's going on. He's at Fort Hood right now.
Let me bring in retired Army general, Russel Honore, who's joining us.
General Honore, this is an extremely disturbing development and if, in fact, these were legitimate U.S. military personnel who, at least one of them, allegedly opening up fire on fellow soldiers, it raises all sorts of very disturbing questions.
LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY (RET.), FORMER DEPUTY COMMANDER, FORT HOOD: Absolutely, Wolf. And General Cone, the leader at the Fort Hood 3rd Calvary, 3rd Corps, is the right man to answer those questions. He and his team are working that hard.
But one note, Wolf, as family members and friends from around the country try to call in to Fort Hood and to the family members and soldiers at Fort Hood, as in any disaster, we need to limit the use of our cell phones and go to text messaging. Right now, it's hard to get a cell phone call into Fort Hood because the phone system is being inundated.
So this message is to the family members and to the soldiers who are listening to you and to this station. They should be encouraged to go to text messaging to tell their families that they're OK, because important information and tough calls are going to be made status of their loved ones, that we should leave those calls, if you're OK, to text messaging -- to use text messaging, as we do in all emergency situations, by (INAUDIBLE) can go through voice.
BLITZER: General Honore, in your experience, how extraordinary and unusual is it for a soldier to open up fire deliberately and try to kill as many fellow soldiers as possible?
HONORE: Well, that's happened before (INAUDIBLE). We had a situation at Fort Bragg some years ago during a physical training exercise when all the troops at Fort Bragg were doing physical training. We had a soldier, mentally unstable, shot and killed several of his fellow soldiers. These events have happened before and it's most unfortunate. The fact that there's multiple shooters makes this a more complex and a path we have not dealt with in recent years in the Army.
BLITZER: Because we heard Lieutenant General Cone say that there are two other soldiers who are considered to be suspects in this shooting. The -- one of the alleged soldiers was shot and killed after he opened fire. So if there are three people involved -- and we don't know for sure, because they are deemed to be suspects right now -- that would -- that would underscore more of a conspiracy, not just one individual going berserk and opening up fire, isn't that right, General Honore?
HONORE: I think that is a -- a prudent speculation, but speculation only, at this time, and more information to follow. I think the good thing now is for people to check in with your family members and, again, try to use text to verify that your family member is OK, because those phone systems now are trying to validate an accountability for every soldier assigned to Fort Hood to find out if they are accounted for and their family members. And that's what the commands need those phones for now, as a lot of families don't have hard lines coming into their homes on Fort Hood, to use text messaging as much as possible during this crisis period.
BLITZER: General Honore, stand by.
Christopher Haug is joining us on the phone right now.
He's chief of media over at Fort Hood.
Can you tell us, Christopher Haug, what -- what else we're learning right now about this incident?
CHRISTOPHER HAUG, FORT HOOD MEDIA RELATIONS: I've printed this.
Hello. This is Chris Haug.
At 3:50 today, we have two apprehension -- two shooter -- one shooter was killed, two apprehended.
BLITZER: When you say two apprehended, are -- are these individuals who were apprehended United States soldiers?
HAUG: They are, sir.
BLITZER: And they were shooting, as well?
HAUG: We have -- all that we've been told is they are suspected to be involved with the incident.
BLITZER: But do you know if they opened up fire?
HAUG: The only one that we know for sure that opened fire was killed. He had two handguns.
BLITZER: Two handguns.
And who killed him?
HAUG: The emergency personnel at the scene.
BLITZER: They came to the scene. And in terms of American soldiers killed and injured, what numbers do you have? HAUG: We have confirmed 12 dead and 31 wounded.
BLITZER: Does the 12 dead include the soldier who was -- opened fire?
BLITZER: So there were 11 individuals shot by this soldier and 31 wounded right now.
The extent of the injuries, the wounded, are some of them critical?
Do you know anything about that?
HAUG: We had reports that two were in serious condition. The wounded are spread throughout the area at three different hospitals, depending on the severity of their injuries.
BLITZER: The two other alleged shooters who are suspects and have been apprehended, were they wounded?
Have they been shot?
HAUG: I would -- I don't have any information on whether they were shot or wounded.
BLITZER: And you know for sure that these were -- the three alleged shooters were all active duty members of the United States military, they weren't just pretending or impersonating U.S. military personnel?
HAUG: Sir, we were told that they were soldiers.
BLITZER: They were soldiers.
Is there any information about a motive?
Did they say anything?
HAUG: We have no information on motive or anything like that.
BLITZER: So that's what you're watching right now.
And where -- where are they being held, do you know, the two -- the two suspects?
HAUG: I do not know where they're being held at this time.
BLITZER: All right. So we'll -- we'll stay in touch with you.
Anything else you -- you can share with us, Chris?
HAUG: Wolf, I think you have just about everything. Just (INAUDIBLE) our hearts and minds go out to the families of those that have lost their -- their loved ones today. This is a tragic situation at Fort Hood. And emergency personnel, of course, have responded in -- in great detail. You know, the post is still in lockdown. We are not letting anyone on or off post to ensure that this situation is concluded with minimal risk.
BLITZER: Do we believe the situation has now been concluded, it's over?
HAUG: Lieutenant General Bob Cone, the three (INAUDIBLE) Fort Hood commander, said at his press -- press briefing that they are assessing the situation right now to determine if the situation has been concluded.
BLITZER: So out of an abundance of caution, they're not removing the lockdown or anything, they're -- they want to make sure there's nobody at large, is that right?
HAUG: Yes, Wolf, that's correct. We want to make sure we have concluded the situation with a minimal amount of risk.
BLITZER: OK. We'll stay in close touch with you, Christopher Haug, the chief of media at Fort Hood. We'll stay very close -- in close touch with you.
And we heard from Lieutenant General Bob Cone earlier.
I want to get a reset of what we know right now.
Tom Foreman is here at our map. This is the Readiness Center -- Tom, right over here. That's where troops are getting ready to -- to move off to war in Afghanistan or Iraq. And we heard Lieutenant General Cone say that this is where they were receiving some last minute medical or dental procedures, going through some paperwork, just the final to-do list before they head off.
FOREMAN: Exactly. And -- and this does seem to be now the area that we're particularly talking about. I do want to give people a little point of reference. If you don't know much about Fort Hood, if you didn't join us a week ago, this is about an hour north of Austin, maybe three hours south of Dallas, something like that. It's about 340 square miles -- a very big base here.
But this area we're talking about that we're focusing on today is right down here, the Readiness Center. It's near the base theater over here, not far away from, right over here, the headquarters of the actual -- the 1st Calvary is actually based right in this area. So -- it's right here.
We mentioned, Wolf, the people who were wounded in all of this. I haven't pointed this out earlier, if you move over this way, the hospital is about a mile away here from this area. So no doubt, some of them are in that area.
This is now the primary we're talking about -- and I must say, Wolf, hearing that there were handguns clarifies this a bit for me, because we've been talking all along about there were reports of M16s. At one point, I read somebody had a report of a sniper rifle. And you would think on a base, of course, it would set off alarms if somebody is walking around with one of those that -- that shouldn't have one at that moment and certainly one that's loaded.
Handguns, of course, easier for someone to move into an area like this with.
So -- so now it does seem to be focused here. The earlier reports you may have heard about other things over here, the baseball fields over here, the softball fields down to the PX, now that may be related to the suspects.
We do know this, Wolf, school over here, neighborhoods over here. When we've talked about the lockdowns, we know we're talking about all of those areas as potential. And we do know -- (INAUDIBLE) we mentioned earlier -- there is a gate down here (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: Right off the interstate.
FOREMAN: Exactly, right off the -- I-90 here. A bigger question, I suppose, if you're talking about somebody coming onto the base who doesn't belong there. But if you're talking about a soldier who belongs there, then maybe that comes a little bit more off the table as to what the investigators are going to have to look at.
Obviously, now, what we're going to want to know as this goes on is, is, really, where in this did it happen, how does this guy have two handguns -- and those were his only weapons. We don't know that. That's a lot of shots to get off out of two handguns without reloading at some point.
BLITZER: To allegedly kill 11...
BLITZER: ...and injure -- wound 31 others.
FOREMAN: Exactly. So that we have to ask how that...
BLITZER: Or 42 people.
FOREMAN: Or the people who were wounded with, you know, if you have a packed room, do you have people wounded with more than one shot?
I did want to mention something which is just a strange thing to mention, but I think it's worth mentioning. This community overall has been through something like this before. You remember 18 years ago, in Killeen, just off this base, there was a -- a massacre at a cafeteria. And the base was heavily involved in supporting the community through that process. I covered that a long time ago.
So it's a very odd thing. I know for many people here who know the history of the town and the people who've been involved in this base that long, this must be a really -- a doubly horrific thing...
BLITZER: Yes. FOREMAN: -- because it brings back memories of that event.
BLITZER: Let's go to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
She's getting more information, even as we speak -- and just to clarify, Barbara, we heard from the chief of media at Fort Hood, saying that 12 people are dead, including -- including the alleged shooter, 31 wounded.
What you hearing?
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Those numbers match, Wolf. The Pentagon is now telling us, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is "closely monitoring the situation." He is getting regular updates from the Army command center here in the Pentagon, down in the basement. They are on full duty monitoring all the information coming in.
Secretary Gates has spoken to the president. The secretary, at this hour, is over at the White House for an unrelated meeting, but is being kept apprised -- pardon me -- even as he is at the White House.
The secretary is sending his condolences to the families involved in this, his support for the base. And I want to add in, the Pentagon very strongly asking people not to speculate on the motives behind this attack, because there is simply no way at this hour of knowing what the motives were, if anything, the circumstances behind what has happened here with these alleged gunmen.
There is complete heartbreak, I must say, at this tragedy. And I think I mentioned a little while ago, I spoke to a young soldier just out in the hallway -- eyes full of tears. He said, "I have buddies down at Fort Hood. I haven't heard from any of them yet."
Just a few moments ago, I got off the phone with another soldier from Fort Hood, a young man I met on a trip down there just a couple of months ago when we were doing a story about combat stress. This is a young man who served in Iraq, came back with a case of severe Post- Traumatic Stress, now coping with that. I talked to him.
He's making phone calls to all of his friends at Fort Hood. Him and his wife, they are safe. But the telephone lines are burning up across the Army family. And it is a family, especially in circumstances like this. People are reaching out, trying to make sure everyone is OK. And they are really -- no one can speculate on the motives behind this terrible tragedy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And, as we say, those -- we believe a lot of those who were shot and killed or wounded were troops preparing to head off to war. We don't know if they were going for a first deployment, a second deployment, a third tour of duty. When you talk about stress, that's real stress for a lot of these U.S. men and women serving in the military.
STARR: Let me throw -- let me put -- put in another point of perspective. When you say that, Wolf, we know this from trips down to Fort Hood, you're absolutely right. Troops very young -- fresh troops, 18, 19 years old -- come through there for their very first deployments, young men and women just out of high school who have enlisted in the Army to serve their country. And they go through these Soldier Readiness Centers. They fill out the paperwork, just like the four star generals do, to get ready for their deployments.
And every week, what happens at Fort Hood is all of the newly arriving soldiers get together and there is a meeting and they are welcomed to Fort Hood, because it's such a large installation. There's always been a lot of concern that, you know, soldiers could fall through the cracks. It's so big. There's so many people. There's so much activity. They want to maintain that sort of family atmosphere, make young soldiers who may be single and away from their parents, make them feel welcome, make them feel part of the Army life before they go off to war.
But you also have troops that are on third and fourth tours now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I've been to a lot of bases, like you, Barbara. And in a situation like this, if they're in a Readiness Center, they're going through some last minute medical or dental paperwork, usually they're not armed in a room like that, are they?
STARR: No. There would be absolutely no reason for anybody there to have weapons. In fact, usually what you find are medical personnel there and young troops lined up. The only people on military bases that regularly are armed are the military police, the so-called M.P.s, who provide routine security at the gates, who patrol the base, you know, basic police law enforcement function -- if there's traffic accidents on the bases, if there's problems here or there.
But these people carry, generally, the same types of weapons as routine civilian law enforcement. Look, I mean there are firing exercises, training exercises that go on, that sort of thing. But on a routine basis, it is only the military police that I have ever seen armed on a routine basis on board military bases -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Barbara, stand by.
We're going to get back to you. It's absolutely true, if they're going through these final procedures before deployment, they would not necessarily be armed in a room like this, certainly unable to defend themselves if someone else opens up fire, which allegedly has occurred today in Fort Hood, Texas.
Abbi Tatton is watching what's going on online -- Abbi, what are you seeing?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, more indication of the severity of the situation. We've just seen an online appeal go out from a local hospital in the area for blood donations. This is the Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas, or about 30 miles away from Fort Hood right now. And this is a hospital that is receiving victims at this time. I want to read to you the alert that they've just posted on their Web site with the details, also appealing for blood here. They say: "Just at the last half hour, Scott and White Memorial Hospital is receiving several gunshot victims from Fort Hood. No specifics are known regarding the incident there at the hospital. At this time, the victims coming into Scott and White are suffering from wounds. We have nothing else at this time. All patients are adults."
And after that statement, here follows another appeal -- an appeal that's being passed around online in the area right now: "Due to the recent events on Fort Hood, we are in urgent need of all blood types."
They're asking people to come to their blood donor center as soon as possible and giving the details there on their Web site.
As I said, this is being passed around on sites like Twitter, which is where the Army is also updating all their followers. They have several thousand followers there giving the latest details there, which is that Fort Hood officials confirm 12 dead, 31 wounded in that shooting this afternoon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If you've got 31 wounded, presumably, many of them will need surgery. As a result, they will need blood. And that's why there is this appeal for blood right now.
Brooke Baldwin is also checking in with folks there in Fort Hood.
You're speaking with some people there -- Brooke, what are they saying to you?
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I just got off the phone with a soldier who is just back from Iraq, back in Fort Hood after three -- three days after a one year rotation in Iraq; also spent time in Afghanistan. And I asked him to compare -- by the way, he's just about a mile-and-a-half away from the shooting that we're talking about at the Soldier Readiness Facility. So he's not in that immediate area, thank goodness for him.
But he did talk about how he has definitely noticed -- we've talked to Barbara Starr, talking about these increased instances of suicide at Fort Hood. And he said, you know, absolutely he has noticed the difference between before his deployment and now -- increased steps to mitigate PTSD among soldiers.
And as I mentioned, he is just back from Iraq, went through the reentry, likely at that same facility. And he told me, though, when it comes to sitting down with a counselor, that he said, you know what, this place is really huge and a lot of people tend to fall through the cracks. He said that the counseling he received was not incredibly aggressive. Those were his words.
One other point. We keep talking about soldier-on-soldier violence. And he told me because the military has changed some of the requirements for entry into U.S. military, he says that there are more and more people, specifically at Fort Hood, who have background run- ins with the law. And he told me there is known gang activity in that main base. And so he said there have been instances of soldier-on- soldier violence in Fort Hood -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brooke Baldwin, we're going to get back to you.
Thanks very much.
That picture we're showing you from the helicopter landing pad, that's at the Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas, not very far away from Fort Hood, Texas, presumably where some of the wounded are being brought for emergency surgery and other treatment. So we're watching that courtesy of our affiliate, WFAA, on the scene at the Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas.
John Fisher is joining us now.
He's the Bell County commissioner. Fort Hood is in that county.
Mr. Fisher, can you hear me OK?
JOHN FISHER, BELL COUNTY COMMISSIONER: I sure can, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Tell us what you know about what know what's going on. I'm sure you've been pretty thoroughly briefed.
FISHER: Well, basically, pretty much what's already been reported -- confirmed 12 dead, 31 wounded. One of the -- the corps commander at Fort Hood, in a -- in a briefing while -- just a few minutes ago, stated that these shooters had been either shot or apprehended. There was possibly two other suspects that had been apprehended and were potentially involved; again, basically what's been reported. I think what was said a few moments ago was so correct. You know, this community suffered (INAUDIBLE) these tragic shootings a few years ago and now this event at Fort Hood. It's -- it's kind of got the whole community a little apprehensive about what -- what's -- what's going on.
BLITZER: And you're talking about not just the community of Fort Hood, the huge sprawling Army Base -- the largest U.S. Army Base in the world, but in Killeen and other communities surrounding there in your county, Bell County. It must be a terrifying situation for so many folks there.
FISHER: Absolutely. And, of course, Fort Hood is so large. It's a large installation. The post resides in, actually, three counties -- Bell, Coryell and -- and Lanpasses Counties (ph). And so, you know, it is -- it is a large installation that -- that has a lot of people out there that surround the community. And this -- this is a very. A very civilian community that's very attuned to the -- to the installation. We know that -- how valuable the installation is to -- to only the community, but to the world, as being the world's largest armed military installation.
BLITZER: It's an -- it's an amazing facility, as someone who's been there on several occasions.
Is there anything else you want to add, Mr. Fisher, at this time?
Anything else you want to tell our viewers?
FISHER: Well, the only thing we want to make sure and -- and reiterate a statement that was made a while ago. Because of the phone lines in the area being so congested, they've requested that if you're trying to get a hold of someone at Fort Hood, your loved ones or relatives there, please text message them. Don't try to call in. The airwaves are being jammed right now with so many calls. So if you are trying to check on someone there, go to text messaging first before you go actually to the -- to the air ways.
And, again, just we'd like to ask the country to pray for those brave young men and women that -- that are defending our freedom in harm's way to come home to what appears to be a free area in a free society and then run into situations like this. They need all the prayers that they can get at this time.
BLITZER: Yes. That's well said, indeed.
John Fisher is the Bell County commissioner. Fort Hood is in -- is in his county.
I want to bring back retired U.S. Army General Russel Honore, who's been helping us. He used to serve at Fort Hood himself. He knows this base well.
When we say this is a family, the United States Army, and that all members of this family are in pain right now, General Honore, explain what that means.
HONORE: Well, you're talking about a post of 40,000 troops of Army, close to 500,000.
Do the math of how many of every 10 soldiers live or have been stationed at Fort Hood. And that's -- we're all a big family. And to soldiers in the 1st Calvary who are now deployed and they are hearing this story, what thoughts are going through their minds on whether their families are safe? That's why it's so important to have people stay off the voice phone and go to text to communicate with their families as those soldiers overseas are trying to call and find out if their families are okay. This is a very tragic event on one of our premiere Army installations.
BLITZER: We pointed out that hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops have rotated through Ft. Hood to and from the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. So almost everyone who serves in Iraq and Afghanistan at one point, they have to go through this readiness facility at Ft. Hood. Is that right?
HONORE: Yeah. Those are stationed at Ft. Hood; that is correct Wolf. We don't bring them there from installation other than we do train National Guard and reserve troops at North Ft. Hood under Division West. There is a possibility of many of those troops also being at training at this time. This is a very complex situation General Cone and his team is dealing with at this time trying to get a handle on the information and trying to get the right information to the family members and get accountability of everybody on Ft. Hood, which is a big first step to get accountability, where is everyone and have them make contact with them.
BLITZER: I remember, General Honore, you served, you were in charge of U.S. military personnel for a long time and our viewers will remember what you did during Katrina, the aftermath of Katrina. Just take us individually, there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers who enlist as volunteers in the United States Army. How much background checks, how much vetting is there before they're allowed to become a soldier?
HONORE: Well, there is extensive vetting. There's been, you know, recruiting in the last year or two has been involved with expanding the size of the Army. But the Army by and large does expensive background checks. And as far as comments made earlier about standards of who's coming into the Army, those troops have to go through extensive individual training at our various training installations. And they're monitored real close to make sure they meet the standards.
BLITZER: In other words, if some gang member, for example, tries to get in the Army, I suppose it's possible, but it wouldn't be easy? -- General?
HONORE: Yes, I'm here.
BLITZER: I'm saying if a gang member tried to get into the Army for whatever reason, it's possible, but it wouldn't necessarily be easy for him to do so?
HONORE: That is correct. The Army has been a place for people to boot strap themselves up. We've got thousands and millions of examples of people who've gotten in trouble early on in life. That should not be a discriminator by itself. When the recruiting goes well we can bypass those soldiers. We're depending on a volunteer Army. The Army looks at that very closely in the screening. They've done a great job. Here's an Army that most of its troops have been deployed multiple times. This is an isolated incident. We need to treat it as that and embrace those who've lost their lives and the leaders that are going through assessments on the ground now and the tremendous work that's left to be done, even with those school children of all those soldiers who are going through this trauma. This is a tragic day in the history of our Army. Hopefully one that will not be repeated again.
BLITZER: Let me just update our viewers. It's just after the bottom of the hour here on the east coast in the United States, 5:34 p.m. eastern. I just want our viewers, General Honore, to know what we know right now for viewers in the United States or around the world who may just be tuning in. An incident occurred at 1:30 p.m. central time, 2:30 p.m. eastern time. That's three hours or so ago where a soldier allegedly opened fire killing 12 fellow soldiers, wounding 31 other soldiers. Two additional soldiers are now apprehended and they're believed to be suspects in this shooting, although we don't know more specific details of that. The soldier who opened fire allegedly was himself shot and killed. That's why we're reporting 12 dead. 31 wounded. We have just been told the identity of the alleged shooter, the gunman who was himself shot after he opened fire, allegedly, against fellow soldiers. We are told his name is Major Malik Nadal Hasan, this according to a law enforcement source telling CNN, Major Malik Nadal Hasan.
General Honore, he's identified as a major in the United States Army. That's pretty shocking, if you ask me. But I'd love to get your reaction.
HONORE: Well, I am, too, shocked. But this is obviously a person with some mental or possible ideology that has done a very tragic thing in our Army. I'm sure it's going to be thoroughly investigated to find out what happened. I think we need to let the command do their investigation at this time. But this is really tragic. And this is the first I'm hearing this. I'm totally shocked.
BLITZER: We're told that Major Malik Nadal Hasan is either 39 or 40 years old. We're not talking about an 18 or 19 or 20-year-old soldier opening fire and going berserk. We're talking about someone who's 39 or 40 and a major in the United States Army, allegedly opening fire. This according to a law enforcement source briefing CNN on this. It's pretty shocking, if you ask me. I'm sure you're shocked as well.
HONORE: I'm totally shocked. My jaw just dropped when you mentioned that.
BLITZER: We don't know if there's an ideological component of this. We don't know if there's just a mental illness or some sort of grudge or whatever. We do know this individual identified by a law enforcement source as Major Malik Nadal Hasan, clearly an Arabic name. We don't know anything at all about this individual other than he's identified as a major. You know what? I'm going to break away for a second. The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, speaking to one of the local affiliates there. Let's listen in.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I may be on site, but not until I am not a distraction to any of the events that are going on there. The right people are on the scene at this particular point in time. I talked to the individuals on base -- there's good communication between the federal authorities, the FBI is on scene now, it's my understanding, and between the military and the FBI and the federal authorities. Of course that being a federal reservation, that is the appropriate individual. We are there in a support role. We've got great working relationships with those individuals. So they know that we are ready and able to assist in any way that we can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Perry, what about other installations that are --
PERRY: I'm sure that those installation commanders have taken the appropriate steps to secure those facilities. What that may be is to each commander. And they have in place the type of activities and security precautions that are appropriate. [ inaudible question ]
It's not my understanding that they have. Then again, that's no direct information to me to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were you when you heard, Governor?
PERRY: We were traveling up here from another event in Dallas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was at the soldier readiness center?
PERRY: That was my understanding. It was where they were processing troops. Again, I don't want to be too specific. Because my details are a bit hazy as well from the standpoint of any specifics about where and when. So I would rather us simply what we do know. And that is that it's my understanding that the situation is under hand. Now they're going through the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listening to Governor Rick Perry giving the latest information as he knows it.
BLITZER: Just heard from the governor of Texas, Rick Perry. He's obviously been briefed. He doesn't have a lot more information than we already have. Let me update you on what we know, according to lieutenant general bob cone of the first cavalry based at Ft. Hood, Texas. Around three hours or so ago, 1:30 p.m. central time, 2:30 p.m. eastern, a soldier opened fire, allegedly, killing 11 fellow soldiers, injuring 31 others. Two additional soldiers have now been apprehended. And they are deemed to be suspects. We are told by a law enforcement source that the alleged gunman has been identified as major, United States Army Major Malik Nadal Hasan, 39 or 40 years old. We don't have more information about this major. We don't have a picture of him. We're working to get all that information. We do not have the identities yet of the two suspects arrested in connection with this horrific incident at Ft. Hood, Texas. An incident that has clearly shocked the nation. Indeed, I would say much of the world right now at what's happened in Ft. Hood, Texas. We don't know any motive of what may have caused this alleged shooter, a United States Army major, to open fire. We're working to get that.
Barbara Starr is over at the pentagon working to get information. We've got reporters on the scene in Ft. Hood, Texas. Tom Foreman is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tom, it all occurred here at the readiness center where thousands of troops are deployed off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they go through some final paperwork, some final medical treatment, dental work, before they head off to war. Because if they're going to be in theater, as they say, for a year or 13 or 14 months, they should get their teeth cleaned before they leave than wait to head over to Afghanistan.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're showing you a little scale. As you mentioned, there's a lot we don't know. We want to look at what we do know. You mentioned earlier this is more or less in the middle of everything here. The headquarters of the first cavalry here, base theater, softball fields. When we move into the readiness center, just to give you a sense of scale at home because we've been wondering about this this whole time, look at the area around here. The buildings themselves, we did a little measuring. This looks based upon what we can tell here more than a one story building. Even if it's a one story building, a single floor of this has about 117,000 square feet. That gives you an idea of how much room these people were dealing with when this shooting broke out, military police, people who have to deal with, they weren't walking into a small area. It's a big area with a lot of people in it moving in many different ways and that can be very chaotic. Beyond that, look out here at the capacity of this place. We calculated more than 1,000 cars could fit out here. You're on a base that has about 40,000 troops associated with it, tremendous number of people. Don't forget because this adds in every way to the complexity of a situation like this, about 17,000 family members live on post here. So all of those numbers add up to a lot of pressure on what happened in this room and a lot of the confusion about it.
That's one of the reasons we don't know so much right now. Because when this sort of thing happens, in my experience, it ripples out into the whole community. As we mentioned earlier, they had a big massacre 18 years ago out of the town here. 20 people killed in that. You've got to know that there were vestiges of that causing those ripples to be a little deeper than they might be in other communities when something like this cuts loose, Wolf. But all these numbers give you a sense of the scale we're looking at when we look at this place, where it all seems to be focused right now. I'm very interested to here what we hear about the other two people stopped, whether or not they were suspects or just running away. I've seen that happen, too. People see someone running away, say he's involved. Maybe, maybe not. We'll have to find out.
BLITZER: We're told, by the way, these soldiers being processed at this readiness center in Ft. Hood were actually been processed to head off to war in Iraq, rather than Afghanistan. We still have more than 100,000 troops in Iraq even though the U.S. is withdrawing forces. All combat forces, supposedly, are going to be out by the end of next August, all troops out by the end of 2012. But still, many are going in to rotate, replace others who have served their 12 month or 13 month tour of duty.
FOREMAN: You would certainly think if somebody had the rank of a major in the Army in this day and time the chances of having served in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be quite high, I would think.
BLITZER: Let's ask General Honore who's still with us. Retired U.S. Army general, someone gets to be the rank of major right now, 39 or 40 years old, I assume you don't get to be an Army major unless you've served some time in Iraq or Afghanistan over these past eight years, would that be right, General?
HONORE: By and large, that would be what the numbers would tell you, Wolf. We still mobilize a lot of reserve and National Guard who in some cases are going on their first tour. I think there's more facts to come out as to what unit. If we could find out what unit this major is from, that would've would give us some indication.
BLITZER: If he was with the first cavalry, what would that say?
HONORE: There's a high probability he's been deployed before. Again, the facts being what they are, he could be a mobilized soldier or he could be one that recently came back to active duty. There are many scenarios. But the probabilities if he'd come from the first cav, I haven't heard that as a fact yet --
BLITZER: We don't know that. I'm hypothetically asking. This Ft. Hood is the home of the first cav. If, in fact, he was with the first cav, presumably, since the first cav has been so much involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, that would make some sense.
Let's listen to the governor, Rick Perry, of Texas. He's speaking.
PERRY: Department of public safety. I've asked him earlier in the day to deploy the resources that we had available, both the Texas rangers, our Department of Public Safety Troopers, and the aviation assets to help with the perimeter of the -- of the area. And they are continuing to keep me abreast of the situation.
Students in the schools surrounding Ft. Hood are now either gone home for the day or they're safely situated. So there appears to be no threat to off of the base at this particular time. But there will be some other students that will be staying at the schools until the military gives the all clear.
Today's events are just a reminder for all of us about the important relationship that we have with our military in this state. Texas has always been generally in those communities where those military bases are specifically, great support mechanisms for the men and women of our military. To honor those whose lives have been lost today I've ordered the flags in our state to be flown at half-staff until Sunday.
And again, I ask that all of you keep these families and these individuals in your prayers today. With that, without having any other details, I'd like to open it up to those of you in the working media for any questions that you may have.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are the latest numbers you're hearing, Governor?
PERRY: The latest numbers that we have are that there are -- were three shooters. One was killed. Two in custody. There's upwards of 20 injured, and I think the last number I had, nine were killed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can you tell us about the shooters?
PERRY: I don't have any information directly about the shooters. I think it's a bit premature to be reporting anything that hasn't been confirmed from an appropriate source.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor --
PERRY: I don't know. This is one of those instances where we have the right people on the scene. The incident manager for the Department of Public Safety is there. Whether it be an event like a natural disaster of a hurricane, certainly at some point in time I may be on site. But not until I'm not a distraction to any of the events that are going on there. So the right people are on scene at this particular point in time.
I talked to the individuals on base who was up range from the event and offered our assistance. There's good communication between the federal authorities. The FBI is on scene now, it's my understanding, and between the military and the FBI and the federal authorities, of course, that being a federal reservation, that is the appropriate individuals. We are there in a support role. And we got great working relationships with those individuals. So they know that we are ready and able to assist in any way that we can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Perry, what about -- installation? Have you heard about any security?
PERRY: I'm sure that those installation commanders have taken the appropriate steps to secure those facilities. And what that may be is to each commander. They have in place the type of activities and security precautions that are appropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did homeland security, the state homeland security department -- happened?
PERRY: It's not to my understanding that they have, but then again, that's no direct information to me to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where were you when you heard, Governor?
PERRY: We were traveling up here from another event in Dallas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that was right by the readiness center?
PERRY: That's my understanding is that it was where they were processing troops. But, again, I don't want to be too specific because my details are a bit hazy as well from the standpoint of any specifics about where and when so I would rather us stick with what we do know and that is that it's my understanding that the situation is under hand and now they're going through the process of identifying the victims and of course identifying their families.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you talk a little about security on the base?
PERRY: From what standpoint?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people have said over the years it's been a little lax.
PERRY: I'll leave that to the military authorities. That is a federal response and I think it would be inappropriate for me to be making a statement about security on a federal reservation when that's not our -- that's not our duty and frankly I would be out of line to do such.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who in the federal government have you been talking to about this? Anybody that you have talked to?
PERRY: We have talked to what I call the up range commander, that's Colonel Jeffrey Sour and the downrange commander is General Bolger and he was again downrange and where he needed to be.
Thank you all for coming today, god bless you and keep these people in your prayers today, so long.
BLITZER: There he is the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, briefing reporters on what he knows, which is not a whole lot more than what we know.
Let me update our viewers who may just be tuning in, a U.S. Army major allegedly opened fire on fellow soldiers at around 1:30 p.m. central time at what's called the readiness center, these troops apparently getting ready to head off to the war in Iraq. 11 fellow soldiers were shot dead, 31 others were wounded, some of them are in serious condition, we're told, right now. Two other soldiers have been apprehended as, quote, suspects, suspects in this case, we don't know what that means, other than they were apprehended as suspects.
We are told by a law enforcement source that the U.S. Army major, 39 or 40 years old has been identified as one major Malik Nadal Hasan, that according to a law enforcement source. We don't know anything else about Major Malik Nadal Hasan but we're trying to get more information for you. We don't have any idea about any motive, what may have caused this alleged shooter to open up on these fellow soldiers as they were getting ready to go off to war in Iraq, at least many of them. We're also told that at least one of those killed was a U.S. defense contractor, serving as a policeman, a police officer in the United States military, a military police officer.
Reset the scene with Tom Foreman who's here at the map with us. Big state of Texas, but when you hone in on Ft. Hood, all of a sudden it becomes much more real.
FOREMAN: Absolutely. Let's move in here and take a little bit of time and look at exactly what's been going on here. When you look at the state of Texas, it's a very, very big place of course. I'm going to remember some of my Texas geography as best I can her. Ft. Hood is going to be right down in about the more or less the middle of the state. And I say the middle of the state, it's a big state, so there's a lot of middle there. So an hour north of Austin, let's say, maybe two or three hours south of Dallas. These aren't straight lines, but generally into that area.
I'm going to turn off all these different labels I have here for a minute so we can just move in and show you the base. It's a big sprawling facility here, about 340 or so square miles of facility. It was once a variety of different bases. They were joined together over many years and became Ft. Hood which is a massive, massive military installation with a tremendous number of people there.
Let's go in because this is the area we're talking about right here and it really is in the heart of base. In the big picture here, you can see the cluster of the main part of the base there, it sort of stands out in this form. But as we move a little bit closer, I'm going take you right into the readiness center, which is the part that we're most interested in. This is where we believe that all the trouble took place. And it is centrally located on this base. Just a short distance away, you can see these are the headquarters of the first cavalry, the renowned first cavalry. They've been tremendously respected throughout the military and certainly in the Army circles in a very, very big way. This is where it all appears to have happened.
What do we know about this facility? We know that the authorities say that there was one gunman that we know about that had two pistols that we've been told about. We don't know if there was anything else involved. Two other suspects have been picked up. We don't know if they were involved. They're simply suspects at this point but add it up, we have about 117,000 square feet, 40,000 troops in the area, we have 17,000 family members on post. This is a tremendous number of folks, more than 1,000 cars could fit into the area around here n all this has been cause for tremendous concern in that community. We'll be back in just a minute with more as we keep adding up the facts in this case getting more into what we really do know about this rampage on this military base which has certainly shaken the whole military community and the rest of the country this afternoon. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news out of Ft. Hood, Texas, about 3 1/2 hours or so ago, a gunman opened fire killing 11 U.S. Army soldiers, wounding 31 others. The alleged gunman was shot and killed in the course of this incident. Two others are believed to be suspects and they are still -- they are being questioned presumably right now by law enforcement. Heather McGarity is on the phone with us right now. She was on the post on the base at Ft. Hood.
It's still on lockdown, is that right, Heather?
HEATHER MCGARITY, ON POST AT FT. HOOD: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: All right. Tell our viewers what that means when they say that you're in lockdown, and earn on that base, this is a base that normally facilitates 40,000 or 50,000 troops, what does that mean lockdown.
MCGARITY: It means that we are not allowed inside our building, nobody is allowed inside of our building, we're not allowed on or off post. We're all stuck here.
BLITZER: And this has been the situation for at least 3 1/2 hours since this incident occurred, no one has given you the all clear saying it's over and you can go back to business as usual, is that right?
MCGARITY: That's correct.
BLITZER: What has it been like for the past three hours in lockdown? Where are you on the base right now, Heather?
MCGARITY: We're about a mile and a half or so from the center where this supposedly started. I'm in a fitness center. It's been pretty rough for all of us because we can't get to our children, we can't get to our loved ones, we can't -- you know, there's not a whole lot for us to do, we're stuck here watching the news like everyone else.
BLITZER: Where are your children right now?
MCGARITY: My children are actually off post, thank goodness, with friends of mine so I know they're safe.
BLITZER: They're OK thank god.
MCGARITY: Yes. I do have a student, I'm teaching a CPR class rights now and I have student whose teenaged son was sent home from school and is stuck inside her house and there's nobody to be there with him. Her husband is deployed so she's been needless to say pretty upset.
BLITZER: Obviously it goes without saying. Heather McGarity, we hope that this lockdown ends pretty soon and you can go back, a sad situation indeed for some many folks as we're watching in the United States and around the world.