Military focuses on return to normalcy as Navy Yard reopens

Thursday - 9/19/2013, 3:30pm EDT

Vice Adm. Bill French, commander, Navy Installation Command

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Employees returning to the Washington Navy Yard when it re-opened this morning noticed some changes.

"We've actually increased the security patrol numbers on the base here," said Vice Adm. Bill French, commander of the Navy Installation Command. "We have the base secure for our workforce."

Navy Spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Flaherty said Building 197 and the base gym will remain closed.

The base has been closed since the mass shooting that took place Monday morning at the facility in which 13 people, including the gunman, were killed and more were injured.

Flaherty said the gym is being used as a staging area for the FBI to investigate Monday's rampage.

Building 197 is the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), where the shootings took place.

"That's the one building that's still a crime scene and the FBI still has it blocked off," French said. "Everything else is available to get into, so some of the folks that were in that building are now displaced to other locations in the Yard."

Providing support and a return to normalcy

The Navy's focus for the rest of the workweek and through the weekend, French said, is to get service members and civilian employees the support they need and help them ease back into the workplace.

The Navy is making counselors available to employees and their families at the Navy Yard, with additional counselors, supporters and chaplains located at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. In-home counseling is also available for people who are not ready to return to the base.

"Our focus right now is really trying to get back to normalcy, if you will, on the Navy Yard," said French. "Most of the workers, most of the employees that were here on Monday, the day of the event, are coming back, so we've got cars coming on the base, so our focus is on making sure that the employees coming back get the support that they need. ... We're trying to get folks to feel comfortable being at work and a good part of the population is back here now. We expect more of the folks that were in the NAVSEA headquarters to be back to work on Monday."

One of the groups on station helping people is the Special Psychiatric Response Intervention Team (SPRINT) from the Navy's Bureau of Medicine. The team has already engaged with more than 600 people.

French has already made the rounds in his own office, checking on members of his staff, some of whom provided support earlier in the week with the response effort.

"Most of them are ready to go to work or ready to focus on something," he said. "But you can tell some of them are a little stressed. Some of them probably need to talk to counselors."

The military learned a lot about from the Fort Hood shooting about how to provide support services following a traumatic event.

"I think there were a lot of lessons learned from that incident," French said. "And we across DoD took those lessons to heart and a lot of the response, both initial and subsequent responses are better today than they would have been in the past because of that."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has already ordered a comprehensive review of all military security practices and safety procedures at all installations.

"That'll give us an opportunity to see exactly what areas we need to focus on more attention," French said.

The Navy has set up multiple avenues for survivors and employees to receive help.

The website www.cnic.navy.mil and phone number 1-855 -677-1755 are available now for employees and families looking for help.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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Tags: Navy Yard, Navy