How 2 Marines and an injured sailor saved lives during the NAS Pensacola shooting

Unsung Heroes
Yeoman (Submarines) 2nd Class Ryan Smith plays "Taps" on the bugle during a memorial service in the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Dec. 19, 2019 (Navy photo/Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Holmes)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Masel and Staff Sgt. Samuel Mullins weren't carrying any weapons when they heard gunfire inside a building on their Florida base last month. Still, they ran inside, planning to confront the shooter.

As they charged toward the sound of gunfire, the Marines pulled a fire extinguisher off the wall and prepared to fight. Navy Airman Ryan Blackwell was inside the building when the Dec. 6 attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola started. The gunman, a Saudi officer who was training at the base, shot him five times through an office window.

Despite his injuries, Blackwell jumped on top of another sailor to shield her from the gunfire. He then helped lead the other sailors to safety -- all while continuing to take fire.

The troops' courageous acts were highlighted by U.S. Attorney General William Barr this week. In his press conference, Barr said the FBI determined the shooting, which killed three sailors and injured several others, was a terrorist attack.

"Ryan Blackwell's heroic acts saved countless lives that day, and we're grateful to the bravery of the base personnel and the local law enforcement responders who initially arrived at the scene and engage the shooter," Barr said.

The Marines and sailor declined requests for interviews. Their commands, citing ongoing investigations, won't say whether their actions have led to nominations for heroism awards.

"No award information will be released for any service member or civilian prior to official announcement," said Cmdr. James Stockman, a spokesman for Naval Education and Training Command.

Blackwell, who's from South Carolina, enlisted in the Navy in 2017. According to his service records, he has never deployed. He was in an office with two other sailors when the shooting began.

He told the Pensacola News Journal the day after the attack that the gunman didn't open the office door but shot at them through a window. All three troops were hurt, but Blackwell tied his belt around his arm as a tourniquet and helped usher his colleagues out.

"I wasn't worried about being shot," he told the paper. "I was just worried about getting us to safety and getting us out of there. … We could have been three more casualties if we didn't escape."

Masel and Mullins never faced off against the shooter, but Barr said they helped "save many lives by giving CPR and other urgent medical aid to the victims."

Masel and Mullins, both combat veterans, serve as instructors with Marine Aviation Training Support Group 23 at Pensacola. The training group works with entry-level aviation logistics Marines.

Masel, a 34-year-old MV-22B Osprey aircrew division chief from Wayne, Michigan, deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. Mullins, a 36-year-old CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crew chief from Jasper, Missouri, deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011.

Both earned Combat Action Ribbons during those deployments.

The attack has led to a review of the military's international exchange program, which allows foreign troops to train on U.S. military bases. It has also reignited debate over whether service members should be allowed to carry firearms on base.

The 2015 terrorist attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, another shooting rampage at a recruiting office and naval Reserve center, also prompted lawmakers and military leaders to assess whether troops should be permitted to carry firearms on bases.

Last month, the Marine Corps authorized about 3,200 law enforcement personnel to carry firearms on its installations -- even if they're not on duty.

In the wake of the Pensacola shooting investigation, the U.S. booted 21 Saudi cadets from training programs after some were found to have anti-American or jihadi materials on their computers. Others were found to have child pornography materials, Barr said.

This article originally appeared on

More articles from

Roughly a dozen U.S. troops showing concussion-related symptoms are being medically evacuated from Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, a defense official told Task & Purpose on Tuesday.

Read More

In a Galaxy — err, I mean, on a military base far, far away, soldiers are standing in solidarity with galactic freedom fighters.

Sitting at the top of an Army press release from March 2019, regarding the East Africa Response Force's deployment to Gabon, the photo seems, at first glance, just like any other: Soldiers on the move.

But if you look closer at the top right, you'll find something spectacular: A Rebel Alliance flag.

Read More
The maiden flight of the first CMV-22B Osprey took place in Amarillo, Texas (Courtesy photo)

The first of the CMV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft the Navy plans on adopting as its carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft of choice has successfully completed its first flight operations, manufacturer Boeing announced on Tuesday.

Read More
A soldier plugs his ears during a live fire mission at Yakima Training Center. Photo: Capt. Leslie Reed/U.S. Army

Another 300 lawsuits against 3M flooded federal courts this month as more military veterans accuse the behemoth manufacturer of knowingly making defective earplugs that caused vets to lose hearing during combat in Iraq or Afghanistan or while training on U.S. military bases.

On another front, 3M also is fighting lawsuits related to a class of chemicals known as PFAS, with the state of Michigan filing a lawsuit last week against the Maplewood-based company.

To date, nearly 2,000 U.S. veterans from Minnesota to California and Texas have filed more than 1,000 lawsuits.

Read More

GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea said on Tuesday it was no longer bound by commitments to halt nuclear and missile testing, blaming the United States' failure to meet a year-end deadline for nuclear talks and "brutal and inhumane" U.S. sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set an end-December deadline for denuclearization talks with the United States and White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said at the time the United States had opened channels of communication.

O'Brien said then he hoped Kim would follow through on denuclearization commitments he made at summits with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Read More