TWO DAYS BEFORE PENSACOLA SHOOTING
On Wednesday, December 4, 2019, a young sailor from Texas who was standing watch for the submarine USS Columbia in Dry Dock at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii opened fire and killed two shipyard workers and wounded another. This received a lot of local and some national attention but the more high-profile incident that following Friday at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida captured all the publicity. Since then, virtually nothing has been written about what happened at Pearl Harbor in December 2019.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported at that time:
“Machinist’s Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, Texas, an armed watchstander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub is in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul…. The Associated Press reported that the shooting transpired in a 23-second span and Romero was dead when authorities arrived.”
PENSACOLA AND CORPUS CHRISTI
The FBI has stated that both the Pensacola and Corpus Christi shootings were acts of terror. There is a heightened concern that both Al Qaeda and ISIS may continue to target United States military installations both in this country and around the world. The determination at Corpus Christi was made the same day as the attack.
Therefore, the shooting at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard deserves another look in retrospect to determine the motive. Additionally, we need to consider how communities around U.S. military bases can help alert authorities to any suspicious activity or perceived threats.
INFORMATION JUST RECEIVED BY NOQ REPORT FROM PEARL HARBOR DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS CHARLES J. ANTHONY
We wish to commend Mr. Anthony and his office for his willingness to discuss with us the status of the ongoing investigation into the motive of Gabriel Antonio Romero. He has granted permission to provide the following information.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service [NCIS] is the lead agency in the case with assistance from the FBI. NCIS does not believe that terrorism was involved. However, the investigation into the motive has not been completed. A determination whether the shooter knew any of the victims or whether they were random has not yet been announced.
Mr. Anthony stated that the current Force Protection Condition at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is FPCON Bravo. The levels are Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. Therefore, the installation is currently at two levels above Normal in the center of the scale.
The active shooter incident in December 2019, however, is not the only reason for us to understand that Hawaii is not immune to attacks that regularly occur around the world. So, let us take a brief retrospective.
HAWAII IS NOT EXEMPT FROM TERROR ATTACKS
In August 1982, a Palestinian terrorist who had been harbored and given safe haven in Iraq by Saddam Hussein flew from Baghdad to Tokyo with his Austrian wife and their toddler son. During the final leg of his journey between Hong Kong and Tokyo, he planted a bomb under the seat near the rear of the aircraft and then he disembarked in Japan. It detonated when a Japanese youth stood up. He was killed in the explosion upon landing at Honolulu International Airport. The terrorist bomb was designed to breach the fuselage of the aircraft and take it down if it had occurred in midair. You can Google Pan Am 830.
I’m not going to delve deeply into the details of this incident and the others which we will consider because I want to avoid having anyone get sidetracked into each case study, but rather do your own research and learn about what has brought us to this point in time.
Have you ever heard of the terror plot called Bojinka? In 1995, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who later was the architect of 9/11, conspired with others in Manila, Philippines, to plant explosives on nearly a dozen jumbo jets crossing the Pacific Ocean and take them down in midair. At least one of those flights would have been destined into Honolulu. The same plot would have assassinated Pope John Paul II on his visit to the Philippines. It was foiled only because of an explosion during the preparation stages in Manila. This was a predecessor of a similar plot from London, England, about a decade later.
In the years leading up to the 9/11/2001 terror attacks in the United States, several of the future hijackers trained at flight schools in the Philippines. Several also made visits into the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific which have never really been fully explained as to what they did there or with whom they met. The nexus with Hawaii in this one is a bit more speculative but Hawaii historically has served as either a transit point or a meeting place. It may be noteworthy that within months after 9/11/2001, Senator John McCain transited Honolulu on the way back from a trip to Fiji. What he did there or with whom he spoke is not public knowledge.
A decade ago from the present date, a suspected terrorist from Staten Island in New York City spent a significant amount of time in Hawaii and was apprehended here and extradited back to that jurisdiction. His Hawaii connections are not clear.
Hawaii has long served as a backdoor entry into the United States for persons traveling on to locales on the United States mainland. On the one hand, this has included circuitous air routes from South America via the South Pacific into Hawaii utilized by drug smugglers evading detection on the east coast and other major mainland cities.
Indirect flights from the Middle East and Southwest Asia connect via cities like Bangkok or Singapore or Manila or Tokyo or Hong Kong, for instance, into Hawaii. Now that jumbo jets can fly long distances without refueling, many just wave at Hawaii from 35,000 feet overhead. So, anybody who stops here has chosen to do it for some specific reason. While many flights and international travel are currently curtailed due to the health crisis, as countries and their borders reopen, we can anticipate a resurgence of global crime and terrorism.
There is also a very serious issue involving small vessels. This includes both the fishing boats that circumnavigate the Pacific Basin for their catch as well as private yachts. Basically we do not know who or what is on any of these boats until they get here. COVID-19 was just found among most of the crew of an Ecuadorian purse seiner in French Polynesia.
Ikaika Kang was a local Hawaii boy who converted to Islam while serving in the U.S. Army in the Middle East. He was then stationed at Schofield Barracks here on Oahu. Military authorities in conjunction with the FBI documented his attempts to provide material support and information to ISIS. Public domain reports also indicate that he had threatened to attack commuters on the H-1 freeway as a sniper and also to shoot people in Waikiki and at local shopping centers such as Ala Moana and Ka Makana Alii. He was willing to commit treason and kill his fellow soldiers and neighbors in the name of his new religion and ideology.
In this internet age, the distance from Honolulu to Islamabad and from Pakistan to Hawaii is just one nanosecond in social media.
Yes, it can happen in Hawaii. It did happen in Hawaii. It almost happened in Hawaii. It may have been plotted in Hawaii and carried out elsewhere. It could be plotted elsewhere to happen here. Circumspection is the order of the day!
ROMERO AND KANG ARE VERY DIFFERENT CASES, BUT THE THREAT IS REAL AND PERSISTS
Both Ikaika Kang and Gabriel Antonio Romero were active duty United States military members. One was Army and the other Navy. One was willing to kill his fellow soldiers and civilians in the name of the ideology of Islamic Jihad. The other was a sailor who murdered workers at the Naval Shipyard for a motive which is yet to be determined.
Whether it is foreign pilots being trained in the United States or members of our own military, it is important for authorities to be circumspect and adequately consider ideology as a potential underpinning factor. The failure to do so was instrumental in the Fort Hood massacre by Major Nidal Malik Hasan who identified himself as a Soldier of Allah.
But it is not only those within the military who are responsible for keeping eyes and ears open to potential threats. Many military people and their families reside off-base and interact with the surrounding communities, including here on the Island of Oahu. Honolulu Police Department and/or FBI should be alerted as appropriate. Ikaika Kang is an example where those who knew him may have seen signs. Once the Romero investigation is completed, then we shall learn whether there were prior warning signals.
Again, I sincerely wish to thank Chuck Anthony at Pearl Harbor for providing us with insights into the Romero case. While this incident may very well not have any links to terrorism, victims unfortunately are just as dead. This positive relationship between the military and the objective media is a good thing both for Force Protection and for the well-being of the American public. This article will be updated upon receipt of any further relevant facts.
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