Sammie nominee responded to Ft. Hood attack

Tuesday - 8/3/2010, 4:36pm EDT

Sgt. Mark Todd, Sammies nominee

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On Nov. 5, 2009, 13 people were shot and killed and 31 others were wounded when one soldier allegedly went on a rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas.

Now, one of the soldiers who responded to the 911 call has been nominated for a Service to America Medal by the Partnership for Public Service.

Sgt. Mark Todd is chief of the Military Working Dog Branch at Ft. Hood and has been nominated, along with Sgt. Kimberly Munley, for confronting the armed gunman.

Todd talks with DorobekInsider about what the experience was like, and starts by explains that the call for shots fired actually wasn't that unusual at the time.

"At Ft. Hood, we get that far too often. Normally there's the funerals that the soldiers do for a fallen comrades in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, initially, that's what we thought the call was -- maybe they were practicing their 21 gun salute and didn't call the police department to notify them and someone was just panicking."

That, sadly, wasn't the case. He said he and his colleagues were en route when the dispatcher called and informed them that even more shots had been fired and people were screaming in the background.

"As soon as we got there, [we saw] a lot of bystanders standing around and pointing in the direction from which the shots were coming from. Once we exited out of our vehicles, within about another 30 to 40 seconds, we had taken care of the situation there and placed the individual in hand irons. Then, we started first aid on the wounded and began to coordinate for the helicopters and Medivacs to come in and take care of the rest of the wounded."

Todd says that, although he and the other members of his team have been trained for emergency and combat situations, he was scared at first.

"Initially when you get the call, there is a serious amount of fear that goes through your body while you're driving. Then you think, 'Okay, what do I gotta do? How do I gotta do it?' Once you get on the scene, your fear goes . . . to the back of your mind. Then you rely on your training, because we train on this almost on a daily basis. It becomes instinctual."

And he wasn't even supposed to be out with that particular team. Todd explains that he had volunteered to be on patrol that day. Normally he is with a K-9 unit.

"The night before, I was at the house and looking at our duty schedule and I saw a hole . . . Because the person who was supposed to be working the road that day was out of town at a funeral for [a soldier] who had gotten blown up by an IED overseas. . . . It was just an oversight that we didn't plug in somebody to fill in road duty. So I called my supervisor . . . and I volunteered to go ahead and fill that up."

He was also quick to point out that he doesn't consider himself a hero. He says he was just doing his job.

"Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, [there] were a lot of cartoons -- Spiderman and Superman. You see heroes flying through the air and coming out of phone booths. I'm just an average . . . Former soldier. I'm a civilian police officer now. That's what we're trained to do, [so] that's what we do. You come to work to help people out on a daily basis. I just happened to be there doing my job."

Despite returning to work the next day, he does say that he did need to talk about the experience and did not want to handle it alone. During his training, he had attended a critical incident peer support group, which made him realize that he did need to sort things out after the shooting.

"As things were happening, I looked through the manual . . . and I talked to a lot of my family and my friends. Anything that came to my mind, I didn't keep bottled up. . . . Fortunately, I didn't have nightmares, but whenever I need to talk with somebody, I can find somebody to talk with."

The Service to America Medal is an award recognizing excellence in federal civil service. It is given out annually by the Partnership for Public Service. Read more of Federal News Radio's Sammies coverage.

Email the author of this post at dramienski@federalnewsradio.com