Chattanooga: We’ve Been Abandoned (Again)


I published this on Breach Bang Clear last week. It could use a little updating, since we’ve now learned that two service members apparently did fight back. But the story I tell about “Cris” is probably still relevant to the debate about armed service members.


So let’s discuss a purely fictional situation…

Let’s say there was this guy once. He was a soldier, combat vet, and like many National Guardsmen was a cop in civilian life. He was temporarily on active duty, working on a totally fictional military base.

We’ll call our fictional soldier/cop… “Cris”.

Cris worked on a state-owned base, not a federal base. As a cop, Cris was allowed by law to carry a gun on this base. Of course, Cris always carried his gun. Cris had a lot of training, including training on how to respond to active shooters. When the base decided to make an active shooter response plan, Cris advised the soldiers who wrote it and even addressed a large group of soldiers on the realities of active shooter incidents. Cris was also a senior NCO with two combat deployments. It seemed to make nothing but sense to allow Cris to carry a concealed weapon on base.

Cris had checked the base’s policies and saw that they specifically allowed police officers to carry on base. But Cris kept his weapon hidden and secret from anyone he didn’t know, just as he always did when wearing civilian clothes. In many months working on the base, Cris never had any issues carrying his weapon.

Then one day Cris screwed up. He was in the parking lot loading something into his trunk, inadvertently lifted his uniform top and exposed his weapon to someone. No words were exchanged, and Cris didn’t even know his weapon had been seen. But the other person reported Cris by name and rank to the base command post. And that’s where this totally fictional situation got really stupid.


Soldiers at the command post knew who Cris was. Rather than say, “He’s a cop and he’s within the law and base policy,” they reported Cris to the base’s threat assessment center. Soldiers at the threat assessment center knew Cris too; they interacted with him on a regular basis. Instead of saying, “He’s a cop and he’s within the law and base policy,” they contacted Cris’ major command. Word filtered down, and Cris was called into a Sergeant Major’s office.

The Sergeant Major was new and didn’t know Cris. He informed Cris about the report. Cris responded, “Sergeant Major, I’m a cop.” The Sergeant Major had a brain and immediately responded, “Oh hell, what’s the big deal then?” But he explained he was still required to address the situation with higher. Cris said, “No worries, Sergeant Major,” and waited for the official “carry on” order to come down the chain.

A short time later, Cris was officially advised that even though the law permitted him to carry a weapon, and base policy permitted him to carry, and he had extensive and necessary skills that would be critical in an active shooter incident, the base’s commander didn’t want him to carry. Because allowing soldiers to carry weapons on base isn’t safe. The senior leadership’s plan for defending the base from attack was “disarm anyone willing and able to resist.”


Some might say that barring Cris from carrying on post was stupid. Some might say it was irrational. Some might say, in the event of an active shooter event, it made tragedy more rather than less likely. But none of that mattered. All that mattered was, it made the base leadership feel safer.

This situation – totally fictional, bearing zero resemblance or connection to anyone within writing distance of this computer – taught Cris a very important lesson. Despite the fact that Cris was a longtime cop, was known as a skilled and experienced pistol shooter, had never done anything to suggest he would be a threat to other soldiers, had provided badly-needed perspective and experience to the base’s active shooter plan, had a decades-long history of honorable service and had even been recognized for his actions in combat, he was viewed as a threat simply because he was armed.

That’s not leadership. That’s a sign proclaiming, “It doesn’t matter whether our troops are 18-year old E-1 cooks or 40-year old combat arms officers. We don’t trust them.”

Days ago our military experienced a horrific attack in Tennessee. American troops who braved overseas combat were shot down like defenseless cattle in a slaughterhouse, on our own soil. They died without weapons in their hands. I’m sure they didn’t die unarmed because they chose to be unarmed.

They died because their leaders abandoned them.


Read the rest at

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for and Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at or on his Facebook page (



8 Responses to “Chattanooga: We’ve Been Abandoned (Again)”

  1. First let me say I agree, it’s silly not allowing soldiers to carry concealed or otherwise, on base, but haven’t these (outdated) rules, of disarming the troops, been around since there were (home country) army bases. And the original fear has always been about politicians losing the will of the people and having the army rise up against the gov’t? Or do I read too much military scifi? Today, it’s probably legal reasons to avoid lawsuits for on base shootings between soldiers.

    With the global nature of wars/police actions/etc mixed in with the increasingly global spread of populations/cultures/religions, it was only a matter of time till something like Chattanooga occurred.

  2. 2 David Anderson

    The same thing is true of civilian carry in public. The authorities simply do not trust anybody but themselves to be armed, regardless of experience or sterling record. I’m allowed to carry on the job, but I can’t on my own time. Why? Policy…

  3. 3 mark w

    Chris, you nailed it again!

  4. Having spent a few weekends on barracks duty once I reached NCO rank in the Marines, I do kind-of understand where some of these policies come from. There is a lot of stupidity that happens when young soldiers get bored (especially when alcohol is also introduced… and it always is regardless of barracks regs).

    However, I don’t think that is enough reason to hang our soldiers out to dry. Weapons issues could easily be mitigated with training, discipline, and the creation of a safe gun handling culture within the military. Of course, this would necessitate treating soldiers like adults rather than dumb children, or worse yet, property (frankly, I’m not holding my breath there).

  5. But arming soldiers would promote a culture of violence. In the military of all places. Surely you know that, Cris? This is the 21st century. Surely we have progressed beyond such problematic attitudes of the past.

    No, what this calls for is a dialogue about privilege. The privilege to bear arms. The powerful in this country have controlled this privilege for too long, namely the miliary, law enforcement, and those who benefit from their oppression of minorities. T….yeah, getting painful to carry on like that. Christ.

    Your loyalty to this country is taken for granted by the brass and Washington. There hasn’t been a real uprising from the ranks since 1865 and none of them could really imagine it happening in this country. The men might get angry for a while but nothing bad is really going to happen, they reason. I don’t envision some kind of mass mutiny or anything, not unless things get unbelievably worse, but something bad is going to happen if they continue to do this.

    By the way, do you find it funny, in a cynical sort of way, how quickly the whole crowd behind Bradley Manning deserted him once Bruce Jenner got crowned prom queen instead? I haven’t even heard his name in months, the old or the new one.

  6. I’d say it’s both irrational and stupid. And lacks forethought. The fiction “Cris” is exactly the sort of person we want to be armed—authorized, well-trained and smart about the weapons they carry.

    I do understand the concern behind the “no guns on post” idea—my dad dealt with some very volatile young men who, if guns had been present, likely would have shot each other and innocent bystanders in the grips of the passion du jour. You can put uniforms on people and put them in barracks together but you can’t make them cohere internally by simply telling them to do cohere.

    Having said that, having no one carry weapons on base makes zero sense given the social climate in which we live. I hope the military revisits this idea and allows for a cadre of trained professionals to be armed in military environments.

  7. 7 Shaft

    REST-IN-PEACE My Brothers and Sisters in Arms for Life.

  8. I DO like the idea of allowing by rank: E-4 and above or something (and O-3 and above HA!). Just because there are so many dumb-ass boots who would wind up shooting each other after a night on the town. Not very 2nd Amendment, but a compromise policy that would arm more folks.

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