By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pledged today his department will do everything it can to help those at Fort Hood, Texas, recover from the fatal shooting there that left 12 dead and 31 wounded.
"I am deeply saddened by the tragic events today at Fort Hood. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen, the wounded, and all those touched by this incident,” Gates said in a release from his office.
“There is little we can say at this point to alleviate the pain or answer the many questions this event raises, but I can pledge that the Department of Defense will do everything in its power to help the Fort Hood community get through these difficult times."
The fatal shooting rampage left 11 soldiers -- including the alleged gunman -- and a civilian police officer dead and 31 soldiers wounded. Police detained but later released two soldiers they initially believed were involved in the shooting.
The shooting began about 1:30 p.m. Central Time at the post’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center and Howze Theater, Fort Hood officials confirmed.
Shortly after news of the tragedy made national news, President Barack Obama promised full-scale support to get to the bottom of what happened and help the Fort Hood community recover from the tragedy.
Vice President Joe Biden later followed with a statement from his office.
“Jill and I join the President and Michelle in expressing our sympathies to the families of the brave soldiers who fell today,” Biden said. “We are all praying for those who were wounded and hoping for their full and speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the entire Fort Hood community as they deal with this senseless tragedy.”
Army Secretary John M. McHugh also issued a statement of support for those impacted by the deadly shooting and said that officials there are providing needed counseling and support.
"This is a terrible tragedy that we will know more about in the coming days. For now our focus is squarely on taking care of our soldiers and their families," McHugh said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have been killed and wounded.”
The nation’s top military officer expressed his condolences but also asked for patience in a statement released.
"I am deeply saddened by the news of the shooting at Fort Hood today. My thoughts and prayers -- and those of every other member of our Armed Forces -- go out to the wounded, to the families of those killed, and to all those stationed at Fort Hood,” said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Details are still unclear, but the Army is investigating. It is important we let that work complete before we speculate about the circumstances leading to this senseless violence."