Author Topic: Book Review: Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild AFB  (Read 1432 times)

Offline Chemsoldier

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Book Review: Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild AFB
« on: October 18, 2018, 12:05:35 PM »
Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild AFB by Andy Brown, 378 pages; pictures, diagrams, charts.

In 1994 there was a mass shooting at the Fairchild AFB hospital that killed 5 and injured over 20.  Four days later, a B-52 out of Fairchild crashed while practicing for an air show.  The author, who is the former Air Force security policeman that killed the gunmen, makes a convincing case that both incidents were imminently preventable and should never have occurred.  He also creates an engaging and thought provoking look at leadership, institutions and lessons learned in how we can prevent and prepare for future events.

The book follows several tracks.  The most thorough is that of the shooter, through his troubled youth and air force career.  He was identified as unsuitable for service by mental health professionals in initial entry training and retained anyway.  He was also forced to undergo inpatient assessment after incidents at Fairchild and instead of separation was sent to another base.  Finally he was separated administratively from the Air Force.  Jokes among acquaintances from high school, to initial entry training and his units were that he was a risk for violence.  The psychologist at Fairchild who recommended he be involuntarily committed for assessment was so convinced he was a risk he bought firearms and instructed his wife to shoot him on sight if the airman appeared at their house.  In the end, the psychologist was among the airman’s first victims at the hospital.

The book also follows the security policeman and author, Andy Brown.  Starting with his upbringing and air force career.  His conviction that his on duty training was insufficient and his supplementation with reading, private range time, buying a facsimile of his duty weapon and mental visualization leading up to the shooting.  Airman Brown responded to the shooting call and fired four times at the gunmen from 70 yards with his M9 (Beretta 92) sidearm, hitting the gunmen twice, with the fourth shot killing the gunmen instantly.  It also goes through his perceptions, how he reacted and the aftermath that included long term PTSD, that was poorly understood and treated.  There were a lot of lessons in how to regulate yourself after you have been in an incident and how to help someone who has been in an incident. 

The book also follows the B-52 squadron at LTC Bud Holland, a very skilled but reckless pilot who was long known as performing dangerous maneuvers but never disciplined due to reluctance by leaders to do so and exacerbated by extreme leadership turnover in the unit.  Finally, when unable to get Holland grounded by the Wing Commander, the Squadron commander said that if someone from his squadron had to fly with Holland it would be him.  When Bud Holland stalled the B52 in a sharp bank over Fairchild and crashed, it killed not only him, but the Squadron Commander and the Deputy Wing Commander as well.

The book goes through the shooting very thoroughly, one thing that stood out to me is how rapidly it occurred and how only effective resistance stopped it.  In particular, the shooter backtracked over previously trod ground in two locations in the hospital.  People who survived the initial fusillade and started to assist the wounded were sometimes shot when the shooter came back through.  Also, the response was extremely fast.  Airman Brown was on scene within about 90 seconds of the first radio call from dispatch and had shot the gunmen around two minutes to two and a half minutes.  But things happened very fast, effective resistance must be on scene before the shooting begins.   There were so many heroic acts during the incident, but lack of effective means to resist slowed ending the threat.

It presents a great look at how hard it is to figure out what is going on.  The 911 system kept receiving reports from people that lead to the idea that there were multiple shooters, incorrect reports as to how many suspects, what weapon he had, where the incident was happening, etc.

It is hard to read this book and NOT see lessons learned popping out all over.  Preventing and stopping mass shooters, leadership, the nature of risk, the list of important things to take out of the book is long.

I have heard the author interviewed by Massad Ayoob and had it recommended by both firearms and trauma medicine trainers.

Highly recommend.

Offline Mr. Bill

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Re: Book Review: Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild AFB
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2018, 08:18:19 PM »
My wife read this on your recommendation, and said it was very good.  (She does lots of safety analysis engineering work at Hanford, so she's heavily into disasters. ;D )

Thanks for the book review.

Offline Mintbird

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Re: Book Review: Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild AFB
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2018, 10:00:24 PM »
I just ordered. Thanks for the recommendation Chem.

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: Book Review: Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild AFB
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2018, 10:45:59 PM »
I don’t recall either incident when they happened, but I did stumble onto YouTube video of the B52 crash a few years back and it’s an absolutely unforgettable sight.  Now I need to read the book.