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Senator calls for review of US military programs training foreign nationals

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott is calling for a review of U.S. military programs that train foreign nationals following a deadly shooting aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

A Saudi Arabian military student shot and killed three and injured eight more with a handgun before being killed by sheriff’s officers, Navy and local law enforcement officials told Navy Times Friday.

The Pensacola air station base commander Capt. Timothy Kinsella said the Saudi student was in aviation training. Navy Times reported that a couple hundred international students train at the Florida installation.

“I’m extremely concerned by reports that this shooter was a foreign national training on a U.S. military base in Florida,” Scott said in a statement released Friday.

“Today, I’m calling for a full review of the U.S. military programs to train foreign nationals on American soil. There is no reason we should be providing state-of-the-art military training to people who wish us harm,” Scott said in the statement.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement released Friday evening that he had spoken with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Navy secretary and Deputy Secretary David Norquist, and said that he was “considering several steps to ensure the security of our military installations and the safety of our service members and their families.”

“I offer my condolences to the families of the victims of both the Pearl Harbor and the Pensacola Naval Air Station shootings. The Department of Defense continues to monitor the situation in Pensacola and gather all the facts of each attack,” Esper said Friday.

The motive of the Saudi attacker is unknown. But Scott referred to the incident as an “act of terrorism” in his statement.

“It’s is clear that we need to take steps to ensure that any and all foreign nationals are scrutinized and vetted extensively before being embedded with our American men and women in uniform,” Scott said.

“And most importantly, there is no reason to risk the safety and security of our American men and women in uniform,” he said.

Scott’s sentiments were echoed by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, who called for “extreme vetting” for foreign troops coming to train in the U.S.

Florida Republican Rep. Michael Waltz, an Army officer and decorated Green Beret, tweeted Friday that someone “dropped the ball” in vetting the Saudi attacker, and vowed to get to the bottom of what happened.

“I’ve trained with foreign nationals in military bases all over the United States,” Waltz tweeted. “The relationships we build together are very important. It’s critical that our allies learn how to operate the American military equipment we sell to them.”

Two officers were wounded during the shooting, one shot in the arm and the other in the knee, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said during a press conference Friday.

Military Times reached out to the Navy regarding the number of foreign nationals and courses currently being attended by international students aboard the Pensacola base and have yet to receive a response.

The U.S. military has a relatively robust program that trains allied and partner nations forces on U.S. bases in the United States. But those programs have not always been successful.

A program that trained Afghan pilots in the U.S. was canceled in 2019 after nearly half the students ditched the training and went absent-without-leave, commonly called AWOL by servicemembers.

A government watchdog reported that roughly 40 percent of Afghan students learning to fly the AC-208 Combat Caravan at Fort Worth, Texas, went AWOL.

Students who didn’t go AWOL were sent back to Afghanistan to complete their training.

Friday’s attack aboard Pensacola followed a shooting spree Wednesday at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Hawaii, where a sailor shot and killed two Department of Defense shipyard workers. The gunman was identified by Pentagon officials as Machinist’s Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero Friday.

Romero took his own life by a self-inflicted gunshot during the incident.

The names of the victims in Friday’s shooting aboard Pensacola will not be released until the next of kin have been notified.

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