Mental health specialists were hit hard at Fort Hood, victims testify

Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the Army psychiatrist believed to have killed 13 people at Fort Hood, was supposed to discuss a medical topic during a presentation to senior Army doctors in June 2007. Instead, he lectured on Islam, suicide bombers and threats the military could encounter from Muslims conflicted about fighting wars in Muslim countries.
By Ann E. Gerhart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2010; 8:48 PM

FORT HOOD, TEX. - The Army reservists had joined up to help their fellow soldiers deal with the mental wounds of war. There were two units of them, and they had trained together in California and now were at this massive post to do their final training before heading to Iraq and Afghanistan.

An Army psychiatrist, who had already been working at the Fort Hood medical center for six months, was joining the unit headed to Afghanistan, the 467th Medical Detachment based in Madison, Wis.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was scheduled to complete paperwork at a readiness center on the morning of Nov. 5, 2009. The reservists all were there, too, waiting around, reading their Kindles, playing solitaire on their computers, passing the time. Some were veterans, and some were not much more than kids, heading into war for the first time.

Staff Sgt. Joy Clark of the 467th was sitting between a veteran psychiatric nurse, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, and Capt. Russell Seager, when the gunfire erupted, she testified Thursday as a hearing continued here to determine whether Hasan should be court-martialed. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Five of the dead were members of the two combat-stress-control units.

Prosecutors, whose intent in this proceeding is to demonstrate that there are grounds for a full-scale trial of Hasan, so far have presented testimony focused on the events of Nov. 5. Hasan and his attorneys have offered no formal response to the charges.

Warman pulled her down to the ground, Clark said, and they lay facing each other on the floor of the center.

"Then I heard her cry," said Clark, a combat medic and occupational therapist. "I reached over her side to see if I could feel the wound. And my hand came back bloody."

She heard more shots, saw Seager had stopped moving, felt for the officers' pulses. There were none. She saw a soldier fall in front of her, "convulsing and coughing up blood," and reached to pull him toward her. That is when she felt a sting in her left forearm, "and I lost my hold on his jacket." The gunfire shattered her bone.

Spc. Grant Moxon, who entered the reserves after he got his psychology degree from the University of Wisconsin, already had been shot in the leg when he saw his 467th squad leader go down. He lay across Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning to protect him from getting hit again, he told the court. "He was bleeding pretty badly," Moxon said. "I kind of tried to help him." Manning survived.

Also testifying Thursday were Spc. John Pagel, a mental health specialist who first thought he had been hit with a paintball, and Sgt. Rodger Winston, who herded fellow soldiers out the door to escape.

The scene was bedlam. Some of the reservists testified that Hasan shot at random, and others said they saw him target his victims. None testified that they had seen him before that morning or recognized him as a major with medical tags.

Both combat stress control units deployed as scheduled in December, and both are scheduled to return from Afghanistan and Iraq this month.

Testimony is set to continue Friday.

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