Twenty-five service members and civilians have been recognized in the past week for their actions in response to the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, which took the lives of three sailors and injured eight others.
On Friday, Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, the commander of Naval Education and Training Command, recognized 12 service members and civilians during a ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
“It’s still hard to comprehend how something like this could happen here at NAS Pensacola, but it did happen, and I remain in awe at how those we honored here today responded,” Cozad said, according to a Navy news release.
“It’s a testament to the service that they were all called to when every one of them, military and civilian, raised their right hand and swore an oath to our nation,” Cozad said. “None of them came to work that day expecting to face the unimaginable, but they all know firsthand what it means to do what needs to be done in the face of adversity and to sacrifice for each other and our country.”
Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel, said those recognized “represent the strength and resiliency of our military.”
“These individuals ran towards danger and put themselves in harm’s way, selflessly risking their lives,” Nowell said in his virtual remarks. “They demonstrated toughness, trust and connectedness to our Navy and Marine Corps family and I’m proud to call each of them a shipmate.”
During Friday’s ceremony, Ensign Blaine DaPra, Ensign Breanna Thomas, and Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Carl Daniel were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Thomas, Daniel and Ensign Kristy Lehmer also were awarded the Purple Heart.
“I joined the Navy to be a rescue swimmer knowing that one day my number might be called to save someone,” said Daniel, who administered first aid to those critically wounded, in the Navy news release. “I wish it had not been under these circumstances. At the end of the day, I did what I did and I would do it again without skipping a beat.”
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Additionally, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Masel and Staff Sgt. Samuel Mullins, with Marine Aviation Training Support Group 23, were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, and Staff Sgt. Andrew Pfannenstiel, Staff Sgt. Andrew Fitzgerald, and Sgt. Kyle Armbruster, also with MATSG-23, were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
The Navy also recognized civilians Ronnie Moreno and Kevin Groff, who were awarded the Department of the Navy Superior Civilian Medal for Valor, and Raven Smith, who was awarded the Department of the Navy Civilian Service Commendation Medal.
The Navy said Marine Capt. Kyle Whitlock, who earned the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and Airman Apprentice Ryan Blackwell, who earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and Purple Heart, were recognized at a ceremony last month.
Likewise, Airman Apprentice George Johnson will receive the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and Purple Heart, and Jessica Pickett will receive the Secretary of Defense Medal of Freedom Award at a later date.
“It’s great that we are all being recognized for our actions, but I feel that we did what any other Marine or Sailor would do when put in the same situation,” Staff Sgt. Andrew Pfannenstiel said in a news release.
Pfannenstiel, an instructor with Marine support group, earned the Navy and Marine Corp Commendation Medal for transporting medical supplies and aiding others in caring for wounded personnel.
On June 16, the Navy also held an awards ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum for 13 others assigned to NAS Pensacola’s Navy Security Forces and Fire and Emergency Services Gulf Coast to recognize individuals who earned the Secretary of Defense Medal of Freedom, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal,the Secretary of the Navy Distinguished Civilian Medal for Valor, and the Navy Installations Command lifesaving certificate.
“Without hesitation, these brave men and women ran toward untold danger, not knowing if they would return,” Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer of NAS Pensacola, said in a Navy news release. “They stared pure evil in the face, they stood their ground and they saved lives.”
Saudi Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani opened fire on a classroom at Naval Station Pensacola Dec. 6, taking the lives of Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23; Seaman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21; and Seaman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19. Alshamrani, also died following an altercation with police.
The New York Times reported Sunday that there were multiple lapses in the screening process that allowed Alshamrani from joining Saudi Arabia’s military or from participating in the U.S. training initiative at Pensacola.
For example, the Times reported the Pentagon’s “insider threat program” that was launched in response to the 2008 shootings at Fort Hood in Texas does not apply to foreign military students.