Tom Vanden Brook
Published 4:53 PM EST Dec 10, 2019
WASHINGTON – The Navy has grounded more than 300 Saudi nationals training to be pilots after the shooting rampage last week at Pensacola Naval Air Station, the Navy said Tuesday.
Training for all personnel at the Florida base was suspended over the weekend, said Navy Cdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman. Limited training resumed Monday, including for some international students. However, the Saudi students remain grounded, Doss said. Some classroom training for them is expected to resume this week.
Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, of the Royal Saudi Air Force, armed with a legally purchased 9mm Glock handgun and several extra magazines, started the rampage on Friday that ended with three dead, including Alshamnrani. Eight others, including two sheriff’s deputies were wounded. The FBI is investigating the shootings as a terror attack.
“A safety stand-down and operational pause commenced Monday for Saudi Arabian aviation students at (Naval Air Station) Pensacola and NAS Whiting Field and NAS Mayport, Florida,” Doss said. “Classroom training is expected to resume this week for those students. There are approximately 140 Saudi Arabian students training at NAS Pensacola and 35 at NAS Whiting Field and 128 at NAS Mayport.”
Reuters first reported the grounding of the Saudi pilots.
Alshamrani, began his three-year course August 2017 with English, basic aviation and initial pilot training, said the officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly due to the ongoing investigation.
Alshamrani had joined 5,180 foreign students from 153 countries in the United States for military training. Many of those students operate U.S. military hardware that foreign governments buy from the United States. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest customer for arms, and many of those are American made. He was one of 852 Saudi nationals training with the Pentagon in the United States.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered a review of security at domestic military bases after the shooting.