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Portsmouth Naval Shipyard ups security after Navy base shootings

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS West Virginia (SSBN 736) departs Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., following an engineering refueling overhaul in 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Ernest R. Scott/Released)

Security forces at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are “responding accordingly” after shooting attacks last week at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Naval Air Station Pensacola, the latter of which is being investigated by the FBI as a potential act of terrorism.

In a statement issued Saturday, PNSY Cmdr. Capt. Daniel Ettlich said the specifics of such security measures cannot be discussed, but he cautioned employees that they may come with some inconveniences.

“Your personal safety and the security of our facility and the nuclear-powered submarines we are entrusted to maintain are my top priorities,” Ettlich wrote to the PNSY workforce of approximately 7,000. “I ask for your patience and cooperation knowing these measures are in place for all of our safety.”

Two Defense Department civilian workers were killed when a sailor opened fire at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii last Thursday. The alleged shooter, identified as Gabriel Romero, was assigned to the USS Columbia, docked as the shipyard for routine maintenance.

On Friday, at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, Mohammed Alshamrani, a Saudi Arabian Air Force officer who had been in flight training at the base for two years, allegedly opened fire in a classroom building, killing three sailors and injuring several others, according to published reports. Alshamrani, one of 852 Saudi nationals in the U.S. training under a cooperation agreement, was killed after exchanging gunfire with authorities.

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White House officials have said the deadly Pensacola shooting “appears to be a terrorist attack,” but authorities have not found ties between the alleged attacker and terrorist groups. Authorities are still trying to determine a motive for the shooting, and whether it was an isolated incident or part of a larger plan.

Ettlich asked PNSY civilian employees and Navy personnel to “see something, say something.”

“If something doesn’t look right or feel right from a security perspective, please contact security or your supervisor immediately,” he said. “Keeping a watchful eye also applies to looking out for the well-being of our co-workers and employees. Respect, civility, and professionalism not only leads to success in our mission but it also builds a safe and secure work environment. If someone in your area is struggling, be sure to reach out and let them know that help is available.”

Ettlich referenced resources such as PNSY’s Employee Assistance Program, Fleet and Family Support Center, or the chaplain’s office.

“Just as you are all experts in your field, so too are those we entrust with our safety and security,” Ettlich said. “Know they have the watch, so we can continue to deliver excellence for the Navy. Be safe and prepared, the Nation is calling and we must answer.”

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© 2019 the Foster’s Daily Democrat