FORT HOOD, Texas — The quiet, professional bearing of guards at this sprawling Army post's main gate Thursday provided stark contrast to a soldier's rampage hours earlier that left four people dead and 16 injured.
The base, dubbed "The Great Place," is home to two full divisions and 12 other units — more than 40,000 soldiers. Parts of the nation's largest active-duty armored post resemble any typical suburban neighborhood. Such violence seems totally out of place here, even in a community where streets bear names such as Tank Destroyer Boulevard and Hell on Wheels Avenue.
The base and the surrounding community of Killeen appeared normal Thursday, although physical training was canceled for all soldiers. Chaplains set up family counseling centers at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel and nearby Scott & White Hospital, where nine of the injured were admitted.
Outside the 24-hour Hallmark diner a few miles from the post, Terry Johnson and Anette Barreiro smoked cigarettes and fretted about the people they know at Fort Hood. The post is a major economic driver for the area, especially when it's a pay week like this one. Car dealerships, pawn stores and barbershops ring the base.
Johnson, 41, a car salesman, said some high-ranking officers have told him they felt safer deployed in combat zones than they did on their own post.
Barreiro, 48, a waitress at a nearby sports bar, said she had just come on duty Wednesday afternoon when the shooting happened. All the customers, she said, insisted she switch the TV screens to the news coverage.
"It's very disturbing that people could do something like this," she said. "I know they've just come from war, but to do something like this..."
The drill is not new here. Wednesday's tragedy came less than five years after this same post suffered the worst attack on a domestic U.S. military installation in history. On Nov. 5, 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan went on a shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 31 wounded.
In fact, the gunman, Spc. Ivan Lopez, bought his .45-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun in Killeen at Guns Galore -- the same shop where Hasan bought his weapon.
Pastor Edward McCabe of West Bridgewater, Mass., who says he's in his late 60s, was at Fort Hood just over a month when Hasan went on his rampage. McCabe was a reservist who came to the Central Texas army post as a Catholic chaplain but gave notice of his desire to leave the Monday before that Thursday shooting. He left the following May.
"It was the very hostile feeling that precipitated my resigning," McCabe says. "It was a mood on post."
"I just said 'I don't like this place. I had a very bad feeling there," he says.
McCabe says he wasn't surprised to hear of another Fort Hood shooting spree.
"It was pervasive -- a level of anger there," he says. "I had a lot of different encounters with people every day and I never dealt with anyone that was in a happy mood."
The Army said Lopez was an Iraq War veteran who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, but had not yet been diagnosed for the illness.
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, head of the Army's III Corps at the Texas post, said the shooter walked into a building in the post's 1st Medical Brigade at about 4 p.m. Wednesday and opened fire with the .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle, fired more shots from the vehicle, went to another building and began shooting, Milley said.
When a military police officer encountered him and drew her weapon, the shooter put his arms up before pulling out a gun and fatally shooting himself.
He was married and "does have family," Milley said.
Lopez arrived at Fort Hood in February from another Army post and had not been assigned to one of the Army Wounded Transition Units, military units that are set up to care for wounded, injured or ill soldiers. Those assigned to these units have case managers who help them track appointments and manage their medical treatments.
Inside the Hallmark, a sign promises free coffee to active-duty military. But traffic was light Thursday, said waitress Catherine Wright, 34.
"It's been dead," she said. "Usually they come off the base and go to the clubs and then come here after, but not today," she said. Wrightwas born on Colorado's Fort Carson base, said she's always felt safe around military bases. But that's changed over the past few years, she said.
"You figure that since it happened before, they'd be more prepared," Wright said.
Killeen native Marie Pyburn, 82, says her first reaction to the shooting in her hometown: "here we go again."
"It just upsets me to think these kinds of thing go on in the world."
Contributing: Sharon Jayson in Killeen, John Bacon in McLean, Va.; The Associated Press