FT. HOOD, TEXAS — — Ten more soldiers took the stand Friday to describe the carnage unleashed last November at this Army base's medical processing center when a uniformed man several identified as Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire with a handgun.
Four soldiers described being hit as they tried to take cover, and several told of either being shot or watching others gunned down while trying to rush the gunman.
Via a video hookup from Kandahar, Afghanistan, several witnesses spoke emotionally of watching as three members of their unit were slain — including a captain who tried to use a chair as a weapon during the Nov. 5 rampage.
Like the other 29 witnesses who have testified so far in the hearing, the soldiers called on Friday said they initially thought someone was conducting a drill when they heard a scream of "Allahu Akbar" — "God is great" in Arabic — and then a series of popping noises.
"I honestly didn't think it was real. I thought it was a training exercise," said Spc. Megan Martin. "They told us to prepare for anything at Ft. Hood."
Martin said she focused on the gunman in combat fatigues and ripple-soled desert boots. He appeared to be firing the weapon "in a fan motion," she said. When a soldier two seats down was hit and began to bleed from the mouth, Martin said, she dropped to the ground, eyes still riveted on the man with the handgun.
"Sir, I couldn't look away. I laid absolutely still as I could because he was shooting everything that moved," Martin said. "I couldn't stop watching. It was a nightmare that reoccurs every day."
Martin said a captain from her Wisconsin-based medical reserve unit rose and began charging the shooter. "But he wasn't fast enough, and he was shot at close range," she said, struggling to hold back tears.
Spc. Logan Burnett said he saw the captain dropped by the gunshot after trying to rush the gunman with a folding chair.
Burnett said that when he saw a magazine drop from the gun, he "stood up and grabbed a folding table. I turned to throw it toward the shooter. At that point, I was struck in the head and fell down."
Burnett looked angry as he identified Hasan as his assailant. He added that the gunman shot him two more times as he tried to get away.
And as he looked back on the area where the firing had begun, Burnett said, "there was nothing but chairs scattered everywhere, bodies scattered everywhere, blood everywhere."
Spc. Lance Aviles said he also considered trying to tackle the shooter after seeing his buddy's head blown off in the melee. Like Burnett, he thought he might be able to charge him as he reloaded, but realized the gunman switched magazines too quickly.
Instead, Aviles said, he jumped under a table and called his sergeant on a cellphone.
Hasan faces 13 counts of premeditated capital murder and 32 counts of premeditated attempted murder. The hearing, known in military law as an Article 32 proceeding, will determine whether he faces a general court-martial.
The attack ended when two civilian police officers wounded Hasan. Shot four times, he remains paralyzed from the chest down.
On Friday, as on two earlier days of testimony, Hasan was impassive. He sometimes jotted notes or brushed his face with his hands. He looked without expression as some of the soldiers stood and identified him as the man who had attacked the processing center.
Hasan's expression did not change as several soldiers spoke of their determination to stay in the military even after suffering debilitating injuries. Seventeen of the 32 soldiers wounded Nov. 5 have testified.
When a defense attorney asked if Martin had considered seeking a discharge or reassignment to avoid deployment, the soldier's voice shifted from tearful to determined. "I wanted to carry on the mission," she said, "as my fallen soldiers would have wanted me to."