PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - After the Navy Yard shooting, there was a lot of talk about the quick response from police and military police, but there was little mention of another group of responders.
Although they were not as visible as law enforcement, the Navy Medicine Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team, or SPRINT, played a vital role in the aftermath of the shooting.
"We don't set up a clinic and have folks come to us. We go to where the people are working, where they're going to be getting back to their lives and getting back to work," said Cmdr. Ingrid Pauli, SPRINT psychologist.
"That's our goal. We're not trying to provide therapy or diagnosis or treat them like they’re sick but more reassure them that they're going to be okay given some time," said HM2 Charles Blalock, psych tech.
“Our job is to go in there and facilitate them being there for each other. For many of them it was their first time seeing each other again since the shooting," said Cmdr. Pauli.
Commander Pauli with the U.S. Public Health Service led the team that rushed to the Navy Yard to provide counseling for thousands of employees at the washington facility.
"What I thought would maybe be three to five days turned into close to three weeks," said Cmdr. Pauli.
"I was like ‘Hey, are we getting called for this because it looks pretty big,’" said HM1 Frank Robinson, psych tech.
HM 1 Frank Robinson, a counselor on the SPRINT Team, said many employees were unable to get into the yard that day, and even they were in need of counseling.
"I think a lot of it was guilt because they weren't part of the incident. They weren't there to help their fellow coworkers," said Robinson.
"It is a fairly common thing. A lot of people have a little bit of the survivors' guilt. They felt they couldn't be there to help," said HM3 Benjamin Woodbury, psych tech.
"When they evacuated so quickly, being able to get back in touch with their loved ones, let people know they're safe or be able to find out if everybody on their team is safe, was really hard for people to not know. ‘Was everybody okay? Did we lose anybody?’" Blalock explained.
The team at Portsmouth Naval Hospital really isn't there to provide answers. They offer something more important: An ear, someone to talk to.
The SPRINT Team from Portsmouth consisted of 21 people, including psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors and a chaplain.
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Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
State officials say construction on a new Bonner Bridge has been delayed for years because of a legal battle with an environmental group.