FORT HOOD, Texas -

A soldier opened fire Wednesday on fellow service members at the Fort Hood military base, killing three people and wounding 16 before committing suicide at the same post where more than a dozen people were slain in a 2009 attack, authorities said.

The shooter apparently walked into a building and began firing a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He then got into a vehicle and continued firing before entering another building.

He was eventually confronted by military police in a parking lot. As he came within 20 feet of an officer, the gunman put his hands up but then reached under his jacket and pulled out his gun. The officer drew her own weapon, and the suspect put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger a final time, according to Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, senior officer on the base.

The gunman, who served in Iraq for four months in 2011, had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems. Before the attack, he had been undergoing an assessment to determine whether he had post-traumatic stress disorder, Milley said.

It was a tense day for thousands stationed at one of the largest military bases in the country including a soldier who calls the valley home.  Though he was not there in 2009 when 13 people were gunned down, the Army private said it's surreal to see this happen again.  The Palm Springs native did not want to give us his last name, but spoke moments after the base went on lockdown.  

"It's pretty scary you know, to know there's somebody's actually on a military post with a weapon and you know he's killing soldiers," said Army private first class Sean.   

Sean was not on the base at the time, he was getting his tires rotated in the surrounding city of Killeen. He describes the hectic rush for soldiers and civilians trying to reach loved ones to let them know they're okay.  

"I was trying to call up my mom and my dad, because they were wondering if I was alright," said Sean.  "It's hard to get through because everyone's trying to call at one time." 

He said it's hard to believe a gunman took the lives of other soldiers at Fort Hood, just five years after the first mass shooting.  But, he says it's harder to believe, the gunman was a member of the military, again. 

"[It's] Definitely weird because you think you're on a military base, a military installation, and you think, yeah, I'm safe," said Sean. "I've got a whole bunch of soldiers around me and stuff like that."

While Sean returns to base and tries to make sense of what happened, Army veteran Brian Franklin wants to reassure his family and others like them.  "Your sons or daughters are in good hands, the military takes care of its own, and we are a good family."