December 9, 2019

The Pensacola Attack and Training Foreign Military Personnel

Some question the wisdom of hosting this military training, but it’s quite valuable.

Three Navy personnel were killed and seven more wounded at Naval Air Station Pensacola by a jihadi from Saudi Arabia. The assailant was able to legally purchase the firearm he used in the assault because of a loophole in regulations for military officers of foreign governments. He was killed by responding sheriff’s deputies.

The victims were Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, of Coffee, AL; Airman Mohammed Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, FL; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill, GA. Though shot five times, Watson’s actions saved additional lives.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) declared the assault “was an act of terrorism.”

Accordingly “FBI officials have detained nearly a dozen Saudi nationals and are searching for several others” in the wake of the attack, reports The Daily Wire. Authorities suspect some of the Saudi nationals of filming the attack.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, whose officers killed the assailant, noted, “If you’re not safe on a military installation, then where can you be safe?” The disgraceful irony is that you can’t be safe on a military installation because military bases are “gun free zones.”

As was the case at the Naval Reserve center here in Chattanooga and the assault at Fort Hood, TX, military personnel are restricted from carrying firearms on military bases. Thus, Airman Walters was killed standing watch — unarmed — outside the classroom building where the attack occurred.

Gaetz focused on another issue: “I think it’s important for us to know a little bit about why Saudi Arabian officials are in our community.” He did acknowledge, “Training is a critical part of the mission that we engage in in NAS Pensacola. One way that we leverage that training is to ensure that our allies around the world are capable and familiar with U.S. systems, that they’re comfortable working with U.S. officers, and that we have an interoperability in our lexicon and in the way we engage in battle.”

However, he continued, “This event represents a serious failure in the vetting process and in the way in which we invite these people into our community. … I’m going to be very active in working with the Department of Defense and the Department of State to ensure that we have extreme vetting for the people that come into our country on our bases and in our communities.”

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott agrees, saying, “We need to take steps to ensure that any and all foreign nationals are scrutinized and vetted extensively before being embedded with our American men and women in uniform. There is no reason we should be providing state-of-the-art military training to people who wish us harm.”

A failure to vet the Saudi assailant may be an issue, but Mark Alexander offered a few words regarding knee-jerk objections to foreign military students: “For the last 30 years, I have been in annual training forums that included foreign students at both the Naval and Air War Colleges, as well as the National Defense University. These national security forums embed a small number of senior allied military personnel with our military officers, all of whom are the best and brightest who will form the next generation of military leaders. The personal relationships bonded in these forums and academic programs between our key military people and allied personnel, particularly those in the Middle East, are incredibly valuable.” In other words, this training shouldn’t be a casualty of this particular attack, but military and DOJ investigators should indeed get to the bottom of how this radical was permitted access.


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