It could have been the third deadly shooting on a naval base in a six-month span. But thanks to a dozen brave Naval Security Forces personnel, it never got that far.
This month, 11 sailors and one civilian attached to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, were recognized with commendations and awards for stopping an armed suspect who tried to gain access to the base May 21.
In an Oct. 8 ceremony at the base, two sailors received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the service's highest non-combat lifesaving award. Seven more received Navy Commendation Medals for heroic service under fire; another two were recognized for responsiveness to the scene; and the civilian security officer, Federal Officer Stuart Levitt, received the Distinguished Civilian Medal for Valor.
"I am honored to be able to present these awards today," Gregory Slavonic, acting under secretary of the Navy, said, according to a Navy news release. "Five months ago, these individuals' rapid, decisive actions, and their courage under fire, ensured no loss of life. This surprise assault could have been deadlier, but they utilized their training and responded swiftly and exceptionally thwarting the nefarious intent by the intruder."
For these security personnel, the call to action came around 6:15 a.m. May 21, when the suspect tried to force his way into the base at the Naval Air Station Ocean Gate. He was in his personal vehicle and began firing a handgun at the gate guard as he accelerated toward the entry point.
Master-at-Arms Yaisa Coburn, a petty officer 2nd class, was hit, taking bullets in her protective vest, but still managed to activate a "final denial barrier" to stop the vehicle from getting through the checkpoint.
She also radioed dispatch and began firing on the vehicle. Another gate guard, Petty Officer 3rd Class Levi Milligan, got into a chase vehicle, risking incoming rounds so that he could go after the gunman's car if it got through.
"When the barrier stopped the vehicle, the gunman got out of his car and started shooting at Milligan with semi-automatic rifle fire," Navy officials said in the release.
Other members of the security forces team arrived on-scene in response to Coburn's call, and they began firing at the gunman, even as he continued shooting with his semi-automatic rifle. Coburn and Milligan were ultimately to kill him; his attempt to do harm was an utter failure.
The gunman would later be identified as Adam Alsahli; FBI investigators would confirm the attack was terrorism-related. Coburn was taken to a medical facility and examined, but quickly released.
Coburn and Milligan received the prestigious Navy and Marine Corps Medal Oct. 8, signifying lifesaving heroism at personal risk.
Those who earned Navy Commendation Medals include:
Petty Officer 1st Class Candace Dickson, watch commander/incident commander; Petty Officer 2nd Class Jamie Moore, patrol supervisor/on-scene commander; Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Wallace; Petty Officer 2nd Class Lorne Mayfield; Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Delgado; Petty Officer 2nd Class Franko Hunter; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Gregory Listman.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Colby and Seaman Edmond Cristales also received recognition for assisting with lockdown procedures and creating an emergency entry for responders.
Levitt, the civilian security officer, identified a package in the gunman's passenger seat that looked like it could have been an improvised explosive device, and directed the evacuation of all personnel to safety.
"I am extremely proud of our Security personnel," Capt. Chris Jason, NAS Corpus Christi commanding officer, said in the release. "The Sailors who first encountered the shooter displayed tremendous courage and took immediate action under fire that allowed Naval Security Forces to respond quickly and effectively. The NSF team promptly contained the situation and prevented the suspect from gaining access to the base, its employees and residents. They definitely saved lives."
That statement is underscored by recent events; the Navy suffered two deadly shootings at service installations in Dec. 2019. On Dec. 4, a sailor at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Hawaii killed two men and wounded a third before turning the gun on himself.
And on Dec. 6, a Saudi officer training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida went on a shooting rampage, killing three and injuring eight others before being killed by law enforcement officials. That attack would also be deemed terror-related.
"We train constantly to ensure the safety of our base," Master-at-Arms Chief Petty Officer Scott Fiske, NSF senior enlisted advisor, said at the award ceremony this month. "Our drills are varied, so that we may prepare for any contingency. And, the training paid off in stopping the perpetrator. I am very proud of their actions."
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.