In the midst of the shocking July 16 assault on the Chattanooga Navy Reserve center, a Navy officer and a Marine fired back at the gunman with personal handguns.

These heroics exposed them to even more extreme risks in the chaos — and in the case of the surviving naval officer, now to career repercussions.

Navy officials have not ruled out reprimanding or charging Lt. Cmdr. Tim White for firing a personal firearm on federal property or similar charges.

It's past time that the Navy ruled out this possibility.

White and the Marine responded in a grave situation and took personal risks, which should make the subject of commendation, not censure. Many in the public are disappointed the Navy would even consider this punitive action after a tragedy that took the lives of four Marines and one sailor.

The Navy's position and the media coverage around it has become a distraction from the core issue: Better protecting U.S. troops at home.

Military installations have become targets in recent years. Recruiting stations and outlying military facilities are especially vulnerable to attacks by disturbed people or terrorist recruits who are swayed by demagogues who encourage violence. This includes the so-called Islamic State militants who are urging attacks against U.S. troops at home.

A good first step was the Navy's move to arm a uniformed sentry at all outlying facilities, such as Navy Operational Support Centers like the one attacked in Tennessee. But the Pentagon must complete a more comprehensive assessment of the risks at these facilities, looking for ways to make them harder targets for the rare but troubling threats that troops now face.

Immediate actions are needed to safeguard troops at their workplaces, including posting guards, reinforcing access points and other security measures common at sports centers and museums.

Where needed, defense officials should err on the side of lowering the profile of troops in their communities, such as requiring fewer to wear uniforms off-base, in some cases. The Pentagon needs to learn the lessons of this new front in the war on domestic terrorism, before it's too late.

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