Around 11:20 in the evening, about 1/2 before the watch is due to rotate, after 3 1/2 hours of standing watch, getting tired after working all day, ready for relief and feet are sore. Some civilian is walking up to the ship – no one would be expecting an altercation. If I was on watch I also would have had myself or my POW talk to the person too. It’s late, someone says something stupid, and well, you know the rest.
While bittersweet, the security mechanism onboard the USS Mahan (DDG-72) worked. There is little doubt that the shooter was a civilian, who had access to Naval Operating Base (NOB) Norfolk. There is also no doubt that the shooter took the weapon from Mahan’s Petty Officer of the Watch (POW). What is unclear is where the actual altercation took place, on the ship or near the gangway leading to the ship. Who finally shot the shooter, whether it was other watch standers or members responding to a security alert; who knows. I wasn’t there and for me is immaterial, what is important to me is an unauthorized person was prevented from gaining access to the ship.
Another item that is not in doubt, MA2 Mayo gave his life protecting not only his shipmates, but perhaps more importantly; his ship. Like it or not, the shooter had the credentials to be on base, whether he had the credentials to go past the pier sentry is another question.
I’ve been reading posts about how this was a failure of base security. Quite the opposite in my view – A potential threat was stopped right where it is supposed to be. In addition to be the ship’s security buffer, the Quarterdeck is a ceremonial place, a place where 99.9% of the time the time honored rituals of boarding a ship take place. It is also a place where visitors are screened and held until they are allowed free access or their escort picks them up.
If there is something that has to be blamed, let it be the training the watch standers receive. Sailors are highly encouraged not to draw their weapons, and if they do draw their weapons – they better be damn sure they are in the right. Maybe the POW had a moments hesitation; and that is all that is needed, a moment.