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Perhaps the security at US naval bases could use some beefing up. Despite the fact that the AP reports the Navy held “anti-terrorism and force protection exercises” at its US bases just last month, an as yet un-named civilian gained access to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, “approached a destroyer docked at the world’s largest naval base late Monday, disarmed a petty officer on watch and fatally shot a sailor” on board the guided missile destroyer USS Mahan. The attacker was then shot dead by security guards . . .

The report at is a little murky as to whether or how the gunman was authorized to be on the base. “Each base entrance is guarded, and motorists present IDs. Inspections are rare. All 13 piers have additional security forces. As part of ongoing security efforts, handheld ID scanners were implemented this year at Navy bases in the region, including the Norfolk station.”

This kind of senseless act if violence leads to only one conclusion. If only Virginia had instituted some common sense gun control measures, limiting firearms access to trained police officers and the military, a tragedy like this could have been prevented. Oh. Wait.

[h/t ShootingTheBull410]

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  1. Um….so, rather than arming sailors with actual guns the Navy handed them barcode guns? Leaning a little heavy on that “may cause blindness” thing….

    • well, you know, if they ignore the sign they will surely respect the judgement of the bar code scanner…

    • No, the guard using the scanner has an M9 and there are several other guards checking ID’s, also armed with M9’s. There are usually one or two near by armed with a shotgun or a rifle.

      • It used to be that the presence of Masters at Arms or Marines armed with long guns was indication of the presence of “special weapons.”

      • When I was armed gate security at a military base; we carried M9 Beretta’s with a round In the chamber; some times we’d have one base security with an M4 standing with us at the gates. I don’t know if the procedures for having a loaded pistol would be different at a Naval base.

        We would qualify with the base personnel annually with around 48 rounds from 3 yards out to 25 yards from a standing static position. The level of proficiency of the personnel was not impressive. I would not be surprised if that annual requal was the only time most of the people actually fired a weapon.

        • I shot more at the range last week than I’ve done in the past 5 years with the M9 and M4 in the military. The only thing that could have prevented this is requiring sailors to complete some kind of defensive shooting class. Something similar to the more stringent CHL classes. Car searches wouldn’t have stopped it, metal detectors wouldn’t have stopped it, civilian disarmament wouldn’t have stopped it, the only thing that could have is the situation awareness not to let someone near your gun.

  2. local news reports here in VA say the civilian was authorized to be on base. Now, how and why he was on the ship….that’s in question. There’s a lot to this story that hasn’t been report (yet). Let’s leave the jumping to conclusions until more details emerge.

    • +1. Seems to me TTAG has learned that lesson at least once…
      I hardly trust yahoo news to get anything right,
      especially 38 minutes old on something in Norfolk, VA
      via a byline from an AP writer based in Atlanta, GA.

  3. I await Moms Demand Action’s statement calling for security guards on military bases be prohibited from carrying firearms so we don’t have to hear about this situation again. If it save one life……. right Shannon?

    • I’m waiting for MDA(C.W.A.C.) to somehow claim this as a victory. It makes about as much sense as their last couple.

    • The person killed wasn’t a child, so they will probably ignore the event…. no bloody shirt of a child to wave around.

  4. The petty officer that got bitch slapped and had his weapon taken away and used against his brother sailor has a lot to answer for.

    • Pretty harsh assessment there. I’m sure the Navy has all it’s members trained to handle hand to hand, and weapon retention under duress. A few weeks of Krav Maga training, and I bet anyone can disarm an enlisted man.

      • Times change. In the day if you checked a weapon out for duty you had better retain it and check it and the ammo back in. Heavy negative results for failure to do so.

        And this petty officers negligence cost the life of a ship mate. Screw up in a football game and your team loses. Screw up in the military and people die.

        • I stood petty officer watches at gangways, and I’m wondering how this dude was able to get close enough to cause any trouble.

      • Actually, having been a sailor, and armed, it’s entirely possible that the petty officer asked the guy for his ID and went to check the book. The pistol would be in his holster, and chances are his hands would be nowhere near it. The brow watch is a pretty low end watch. Those who are stuck on it tend to get lulled into a sense of “Nobody would be stupid enough to come all this way just to get on board and get shot.” He wouldn’t even have had the magazine in the firearm, because the stupid rules about firearms…

        • I want you to think about that last sentence in the context of what happened next and rethink what you wrote.

      • Actually that statement is not true. Most sailors are required to just qualify with the firearm they are carrying, which includes a basic introduction so you don’t shoot yourself and maybe a “c” your way out defensive move, followed by a course of fire. (Roughly 40-50 rounds, if you don’t qualify you probably shouldn’t be carrying that gun anyways)

        • Um… no.. Actually, all you have to do is qualify (‘x’ shots on paper). The real gun training is had by the GM(G)s and VBSS…

        • There is no hand to hand training. Some baton training during the pepper spray “training” but there is no disarming training provided to regular ships force. Haven’t stood watch in the US for a few years now so maybe its changed, but we always had the M9 in condition 1, M4 in condition 3. Usually the OOD had a gun too, maybe they changed that as well? Likely the topside rover took him out, but who knows.

    • Sailors are typically not training in any kind of hand to hand combat. I was in the Navy ’76 thru ’80 and during that time I was occasionally an armed guard (called a Rover Watch) aboard my ship. It was mandatory that our guns (1911’s) were UNLOADED until ordered by the Watch Officer. I don’t know about the Security Conditions now, but when I was serving it would have been quite easy for an intruder to board our ship and wreak havoc.

    • Last time I was on a Navy ship the sailor on watch was a 4’9″ woman carrying an M16A2 whose muzzle literally rested above her ankles in the alert carry. She was denied an M4 too. Equality or security? She even said she shouldn’t be allowed to be on watch.

    • I’m seeing it reported on some Navy boards that the POOW was a female and had her weapon out of the holster. This will end up being like the Zimmerman thing. Supposedly the words “her” appear in a timeline released by the Navy. I’m searching for it.

    • Found the reference, ““He jumped into the way – between the gunman and the petty officer of the watch. She fell to the ground. he covered her and he basically gave his life for hers,” said Clark.”

  5. Reportedly the guy was a contractor, thus ‘authorized’ to be there.

    Once you are inside the gates at Norfolk you can go pretty much where-ever you want.

    That being said, perhaps single guards either need more training, or more guards.

  6. Thoughts and prayers for the fallen soldier and his family. Sad indeed.
    More proof that disarming soldiers on base is stupid. Furthermore our administration has missed the boat on security protocols across the board.

      • Indeed. I would say the most drastic cutbacks in proper security and firearms instruction began during the Clinton administration. That sailor that got the weapon taken from him/her most likely hasn’t fired more than 400 – 500 rounds in training their entire career, and only that much if they were a rated Master-at-Arms. If they were a non-MA standing watch, their round total could easily be under 200. I have to shake my head our ship’s security protocols. Four trained men armed with rifles could take one of our ship’s pier side.

        • Yup, I was there when Hillary started gutting the military. Slick Willie was “otherwise occupied.” He had to waive background checks for some of his Political Appointees because of drug and ethics problems.

          And for the record, he says he didn’t inhale.

        • 200 rounds is pretty high compared to what I experienced. Kinder Gentler Navy, and we ended up not being able to use more than harsh words against someone.

          This guy might have fired 50 rounds. His firearm would have been unloaded with the magazine on his belt.

        • Tommycat,

          It is rare to carry in condition 4 for Ship’s Security. I haven’t been on a ship yet where the Quartedeck watch was carrying in Condition 4, although I know some CO’s are cowards and require it to CYA. Also, the Navy pistol qual is 48 shots, which this Watch Stander would have had to qualify on, with an annual re-qual. That is the absolute minimum. Some commands spend the money to give all the watch standers additional training, so it hard to say exactly how many rounds they have fired. It is safe to say, though, that it hasn’t been near enough.

        • Annual qualifications with midterm requal using 48 rounds at different distances for pistol. Low light was required and shoot and move training was coming down the line when I retired 3 years back.

      • Got that stupidity correct. Back in the 80s Ft Lewis Wa. Infantry Co had only about a dozen magazines in CO arms room. 5rd each mix of M16 and sidearm. When tasked for guard duty (as escorting a convoy of ammunition/high explosives over the interstate) would draw ONE magazine. Not to be in the weapon but in mag pouch. Condition -1.

  7. Dan,

    Please wait until the whole story comes out of this. It is still in process of investigation.


    all persons assigned to security positions carry actual guns, M-9, M-4, M-16, M-500 Etc…

  8. And there are commenters over at saying that “this is why cops and military shouldn’t have guns” “like in the UK”.

      • I just expect it now. It used to be “life is hard, it’s even harder when you’re stupid”. Now it’s “life is hard, but if you’re stupid you can get money that the government steals from smart people… so who’s stupid now?”

  9. There is a lot of civilian workers on Military bases these days. The base CO stated the suspect had a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC pass. The TWIC pass used to give you access to the pier. Not sure if it still does. I retired 3 years a go. The USNS Comfort is berthed at the same pier. It is mostly civilian run. The pier entry control point (ECP) is manned by a watch stander armed with a Beretta 9MM. The ship Quarterdeck Petty Officer of the Watch is similarly armed. Many questions still remain about timelines, watch stander actions and event details.

    • My brain shut down for a full 30 seconds when I read “USNS Comfort”. That just seems a cruel thing to name a Navy vessel, not to mention blatant false advertising.

        • Aaaand, once again, my ignorance is lovingly placed on a lighted pedestal in the “Learn to Keep Your Trap Shut” Memorial Annex.


      • USNS Comfort is a Hospital Ship, crewed by civilians with Navy Medical Personnel and a small contingent of Navy Support Personnel. The USNS Mercy is another hospital ship. Non-combatant auxiliary naval ships are designated USNS, for United States Naval Ship. Combatant ships are commissioned into combat service and denoted USS for United States Ship

        • All USNS are manned by civilian crews. It is one of the principle employers of US merchant sailors.

  10. Headline predictions:
    U.S. Navy Misses The Boat on preventing gun violence.

    I’m actually very excited to see how The Watts Gang puts a clever spin on this event.

  11. Shot dead by security guards huh?

    Weird…didn’t realize we had security guards on our ships.

    What pisses me off about this article is what kind of picture you’re painting about base/ship security, when you have no idea how it works.

    • you have no idea how it works.

      I’m willing to bet there is a sailor’s family out there somewhere right now that would argue, simply: “it doesn’t.”

      • Maybe the family would but it is an emotional reaction to the situation. Doesn’t make them subject matter experts.

        The investigation is ongoing. Wait until the results are released before you criticize anyone.

        • Can we criticize the civilian shooter who stole a gun and shot a sailor? Or do we have to wait until “all the facts are in?”

        • Ralph, you are a special snowflake. I am sure you know what I meant and do not need it spelled out for you.

          Have a nice day!

  12. From another report with a different version.

    “A sailor standing watch on the destroyer Mahan shot and killed a civilian who had gained access to the pier late Monday night, after the man shot a member of the naval security force on the pier, according to a military official familiar with the incident reports.

    The male civilian gained access to Naval Station Norfolk with proper credentials while driving a tractor-trailer onto base Monday and then gained access to Pier 1, which has a watch stander who checks IDs, the source said.

    The struggle began just after 11 p.m. when the quarterdeck watch noticed the man behaving erratically. He was confronted by watch standers and a struggle ensued. The man stripped the gun from the petty officer of the watch and shot the chief of the guard who was rushing to the scene.

    The man was subsequently shot and killed by the roving watch stander on Mahan, according to the source, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly amid an ongoing investigation.”

      • Does make more sense but press conference by base CO follows previous events more closely. It will be a while before full details are released.

      • Career Navy (1972-1993), and I never touched a weapon in the line of duty after boot camp. (Well, I was Airdale Navy, but still…)

        But after twenty-plus years, security clearances out the wazoo, trusted with crypto codes and keys, with and around nuclear weapons and a state-issued CCW, I still can’t pack my ECC (or check it at the gate) to go to the commissary.

  13. This is unfortunate, but it hardly surprises me. My father in law has worked for Lockheed Martin for over 30 years as an engineer and has traveled all over the country to different military bases and he said that he would arrive a day early before they had to start work or stay a day late pretty often and most times he would see if he could get on base with out using his Id he said that more than 50% of the time he could get on and no one would ask for ID or take a second look at him. I also said that not much changed even after 911 he said that it usually had to do with who was on duty. You have those that take it seriously that would check him and his ID every time even if they had checked him the day before and those that could care less. Training and protocols do jack if those in charge of upholding it could care less.

  14. Just after 911, the WTC attack, I was at a Reserve base. The Chief of security wanted to arm everyone but the decision was made not to arm supervisors or him.

    The reasoning was that it would upset base employees. Think about that one. Also, the gate guards weren’t allowed to have a bullet in the chamber and only had sidearms with a loaded mag and unloaded rifles.

    You can’t beat military stupid nor politicians being stupid.

      • Seeing as how he used a guard’s firearm to kill another it would seem that was not the case here. Had the gun not been loaded there likely would not have been a body in this instance.

        • Undoubtedly. Most ship’s security forces carry in Condition 1. However, I know a lot of gate guards are in Condition 3 and 4.

        • Pistols are carried in condition 1 and rifles are condition 3. Shotgun carried as instructed by authorized issuing person.

    • “The reasoning was that it would upset base employees. Think about that one. Also, the gate guards weren’t allowed to have a bullet in the chamber and only had sidearms with a loaded mag and unloaded rifles.”

      But they gave them a toy fire truck with a “REAL SIREN THAT WORKS!”, right?

    • Your results may vary. While my career field keeps the m4 unchambered, the standard for the m9 on duty is fully loaded with the safety off, (in an unrelated note, this has led to some memorable interactions with army personnel in the past.) It also varies on location, last year, I was deployed to a base where we were required to carry completely unloaded weapons because doing otherwise would offend our host nation. To compensate for this, we would be required to stay after work to practice loading our guns, and yes, this was as stupid as it sounds.

      • Maybe we should have a forum on stupid? ‘Cuz I can beat that! In Okinawa in the late ’80s, coming on base one night I noted that the gate guard was carrying an M-16 instead of the 9mm Beretta, and asked if there was a heightened state of readiness for some reason. He looked embarrassed, and replied that, no, it was just that he was not yet 21, therefore could not possess a handgun. So they handed him a MACHINE GUN instead. Now, THAT is stupid.

  15. This is a sad story. No matter how well trained any security is, it’s going to happen that someone can surprise the guard. If someone approaches politely and shows no hostile intent, then it’s going to happen. It speaks well of the guard that they quickly took down the murderer with no one else getting hurt after the initial surprise. This is why you have additional layers of security. It seems the security plan worked.

  16. I served 22 years in the U. S. Navy on the East Coast. Nine of those years were spent in the Norfolk, VA bases. I was born and raised in the South and know how to shoot. During the 80’s there were guard’s at the base gates, civilian guards, checking car Id’s. The ship piers had no gates and you could drive your car on them to drop off your stuff, then park it in the parking lot. Onboard the ship, at the brow / Quarterdeck, an Enlisted sailor was armed with a .45 cal. 1911. In a flap holster, unloaded, two magazines in flap holder. Other than the 3 rounds I fired in Boot Camp, I never fired a round. In the mid to late 80’s they put gates on the piers and only certain personnel were allowed to bring their vehicles on the pier. Also the guards at the main gates to the base were pulled and no one manned them. In the 90’s I actually got some shots fired through the .45 for training, about 21. But the Quarterdeck Watchstanders still kept the pistol unloaded while on watch!
    In the 2000’s, after retiring I took a trip with my daughter to Norfolk to visit. Still no guards at the main gate. We didn’t go on any of the piers, so I don’t know if they had guards on them. Gunners Mate’s trained in small arms were the main ones who did most of the shooting, and maintaining of the pistol’s, shotguns, and rifles (M14) onboard ship.

    • I grew up in Virginia Beach and my dad did 25 years in the navy. We used to drive on the piers right up to the ships, and as a kid I could think of nothing better in this world to do than that.

      I have never seen the main gates unmanned, though they did switch to civilians back in the 80’s. Before that, mostly they were Marines on the gate.

      I also remember that back then you had to have an ID card to get into the commissary. Since kids didn’t have ID’s, all the moms dropped us at the front door and we played on the grocery carts and made a nuisance of ourselves until our parents collected us again. Child Protective Services would be after all those parents nowadays. There was more security to get into the commissary than to drive on the piers with nuclear powered cruisers and carriers and kids ran around with no supervision at all.

      • Agreed. I lived in Virginia Beach for 20 years (94-2004), and had been on the base in Norfolk hundreds of times. Security is pretty ‘lax if you had stickers on YOUR CAR and had ID ready. In a car that didn’t have military stickers? They definitely checked ID.

        I have a hard time believing this happened as easily as it seems via the newsclips, but then again…..

  17. It’s not a good idea to have guns available to bad guys. So you either need to equip and train security forces sufficiently to prevent a disarm (including retention holsters and not having them stationed alone) or you don’t arm them at all. I know everyone here hates to hear it but this would not have happened this way if the security forces hadn’t had guns. Did they really need them in what should have been a controlled environment (a ship with limited access points should be secure)? If so (perhaps if the guard was part of a checkpoint granting access to the ship), why was the guard not alert enough to prevent his gun from being used against them?

    Guns demand responsibility. Someone here screwed up, big-time, and now a man is dead at the hands of a murderer. Maybe it was mostly the guy who lost his gun (complacency?), maybe it was the people who put him there with it in the first place (bad planning/training?). I also think open carriers should consider this incident whenever they think that such things don’t happen.

    • The only people carrying firearms on a ship would be the people at the “limited access point” and maybe a couple of rovers. From what I can gather, it was one of the Watch Standers at the brow (access point) that was disarmed and then one of the rovers shot the civilian after he shot a sailor although it is unclear which sailor was shot.

    • So we should disarm our soldiers and sailors to make sure that the bad guys don’t get their guns. May I suggest that we disarm you so a bad guy won’t get your gun? Seems like a plan to me.

  18. Not sure if its the same way on a DOG as it was on a carrier… but here are some insights from what security forces were like on a carrier.

    The Petty Officer of the Watch was not always an MA. In fact it was rarely an MA. So you would have someone whose experience with firearms may only be the less than 50 rounds fired in basic. There is no hand to hand combat training for the average sailor.

    Security forces itself was commonly augmented by individuals from other rates. Again, there is a high probability they have limited experience with firearms.

    Our standard holster is predictably, horrible. It would not have been difficult to disarm him if it were holstered. But again, with little to no force on force training it would have been easy to disarm him regardless.

  19. As for not arming the watch, there are things on a ship you as a citizen want protected. This wasn’t a complete failure of the system. He didn’t get anywhere sensitive. Yeah he shot a sailor, but a sailor shot him. Sometimes in the military that’s the way it works. We aren’t trained to react to keep ourselves safe at all cost. I’m sure at the sight of a struggle over a gun many civilians would run away.

  20. Likely didn’t have any of that ammo that the Post Office, Social Security Administration and the US Dept of Education have been hoarding.

  21. I was a Navy MAA just a few years ago and was stationed aboard an aircraft carrier, small boy’s (destroyers) usually only had one ship MAA and the security was handled by the crew. To be able to man the watch the MAA will have trained crew members in basic qualifications that go over nonlethal weapons, weapons retention, watch standing procedures, physical manipulation and handcuffing.

    How the guy got the gun I can only speculate but to get onto a destroyer is not easy because there is always a armed guard at the brow. That guard is probably the one he got the weapon from.

    • The weapon wasn’t in the holster. The Petty Officer of the watch drew the weapon on the intruder, at which point he took it from her.

      Different ships use different holsters (safariland and blackhawk being the most prevalent that I’ve seen), but not every sailor has their own. Most of us just grab a gun belt off the rack, and most of these aren’t very well taken care of. I went out and bought my own gun belt just so I would feel comfortable while on watch knowing my stuff is good to go.

    • What has Wayne and the NRA have to do with this? The problem is the Navy spends to much time training in accepting gays, not getting excited around pretty women, how to write checks etc. The navy should focus more on firearms training and marksmanship. It does no good to have armed guards that are not properly trained. BTW the navy never did conduct intensive individual firearms training except for specialized groups.

      • Something about the mission of the military being “to kill people and break things” rather than being a social-science laboratory??

  22. Lanyards are still in use by those in NSW (SEALs, SWCC, EOD ect) not sure about the plain jane navy

  23. As a contractor we taught some SF guys a driving course, all it took to get on base was for me to drop the name of the units commander and we were waved through. Base security depends in many things, I’ve been patted down outside my vehicle, and waved through, I’ve shown ID, I’ve been told they didn’t want to see it. It really is unfortunate what happened, frankly I’ve always thought navy forearms training was inadequate. Frankly however, a small percentage of the navy actually shoot regularly. I think outside of NSW HMs, GMs and aviation (wet and dry side) shoot the most out of anybody,mid you enjoy shooting and want to serve I encourage you to look at SWCC, they have a weekly allotment of rounds of 4000

  24. Doesn’t surprise me that so many comments here are just flat wrong about very many things….nor that they are being made by armchair commandos and out-of-the-loop vets.

  25. The secrecy surrounding this incident smells.

    It is unusually bad that (1) an intruder gained criminal access to a warship on a naval base and that (2) an intruder disarmed the security deck officer.

    As much as we need to know who the intruder was (they’re not tellin) we also need to know who the disarmed security sailor was (they’re not tellin that either).

    Compare this to the Washington Naval Yard shooting – in that case we knew all kinds of details within 24 hours.

    I wonder if the disarmed deck officer was “physically strong enough” to reasonably be able to wrestle with a bad guy.

  26. As an active duty sailor now, our weapons are loaded when we are on watch.
    M9 condition 1 (round in chamber) but that’s it for POOL…OOD doesn’t carry.
    Most sailors qualify once a year with m16 and M9 but it’s very few rounds and accuracy is horrible.
    GM’s and the VBSS team shoot ALOT more and are tough weapons retention and some hand to hand. When I went through VBSS school they called it a “multiple person ass whoopin, there’s no reason to fight fair. Use 3 or 4 guys to take down 1”
    I really hope the Navy learns from this and my condolences go out to the shipmates and familys.


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