Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oregon National Guard remembers September 11

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, The Oregon National Guard has compiled several personal stories recalling that fateful day a decade ago.

What follows are stories from Oregon National Guard Soldiers, Airmen, retirees, and civilian employees, friends, and family members. They are reflections on Sept. 11, 2001--the day that forever changed the way Americans do business, vote, travel, and live their lives.

This blog post was published precisely when the first plane hit 1 WTC (North Tower of the World Trade Center), 8:46 a.m. EST (5:46 a.m. PST), but honors all those who perished in the attacks that day on both towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

We invite you to share your own stories in the comments section. May all who perished that day rest in peace. May all who were effected by those events find solace in a collective remembrance and reflection on this solemn day.

I was getting ready for work and turned the TV on, the first plane had hit a tower and the talking heads on CNN didn't know what was going on, none of us did.

Then I watched live as the second aircraft hit the other tower and I knew my guess it had been an accident was wrong, that this was a deliberate act.

Finished getting dressed and hurried to work, I was a Readiness NCO for a unit on Camp Withycombe.

A busy morning, meetings at battalion. Answering the phone as my unit members called in on their own to ask "do I need to report"...

I told them no, not yet, we would let them know. Soon there was a call for a 100% call down, except I was done, ALL my soldiers had called in or come over from the shop they work at on post to check in.

- Paul Carrier, SSG,
Headquarters, 82 Brigade, Oregon Army National Guard


I got to work just before 6:00am on Sept. 11th, 2001, and went to the break room to get some breakfast and check my e-mail.

When I got there, the TV was on, and the news was reporting that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. I was still watching, as live on TV, the second jet crashed into the other tower. By that time, the news was calling it "An apparent act of terrorism." I remember my boss laughing at the news anchor when he said that, because it was pretty obvious to us that it was an actual attack.

Sometime that morning I got into uniform, our alert jets (plus a few extras) took off for combat air patrols, and we switched over to 24-hour operations. What came next is now called Operation Noble Eagle, but for us, it was just life as (almost) normal, because we were doing what we had trained for, even if it was under circumstances we never expected.

- Richard Armstrong, Technical Sgt (Ret.)
142nd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air Guard


Three fellow Airmen and I had just arrived at the NCO Academy at McGhee-Tyson AFB in Tennessee on Sunday, Sept. 9. Our first day of class (Monday the 10th) was uneventful… going through the syllabus, ground rules for the course, schedules and such. The next day was entirely different, and undoubtedly would change all our lives forever.

I remember sitting in class the morning of Sept. 11, and the instructor was going through some of the coursework when the school commandant walked in and pulled him aside. They had a brief, hushed conversation, and I immediately thought that one of us was in trouble. The instructor then called for all of us to make our way to the main auditorium. We filed in there along with students from the school until we filled the seats.

On the big screen was live CNN coverage—one of the towers of the World Trade Center was burning. No one from the school stepped up to say anything or explain to us what was going on. At first we were confused… was it an aviation mishap? How did this involve our school? The commentators were also confused… some said they thought a passenger plane had hit the tower. But it was a clear day… how could it be? We quietly discussed what was going on.

A few minutes later, we watched in horror as the second plane hit the other tower. Coverage jumped back and forth between New York and the Pentagon, where another plane had crashed into that building. The room fell silent. There was no need to say anything—we all now knew someone had attacked us.

One of my fellow Oregon Guardsmen, Tech. Sgt. Erik Simmons, turned to me and said, “This is the start of a war. Our lives will never be the same.”

How true were his words.

- Nick Choy, Tech. Sgt.,
142nd Fighter Wing Medical Group CERFP


I was sleeping on the morning of 9/11. Although my alarm clock went off to the radio feature and I recall some kind of emergency being broadcast, I was still half asleep and hit snooze. Several times in fact. Then my phone rang. My mom woke me up and declared a huge emergency saying “a plane landed in a NY World Trade Center building! Quick turn on the TV!!!!!”

I immediately ran to the living room and watched the TV replay of the first plane into the first tower. Then I witnessed the second plane crash into the second tower. It was unreal. It felt very weird to go into my civilian job that day with no call yet from the military. I had just separated from active duty Air Force in November 2000 and was enjoying my full-time civilian job for a corporate travel agency while serving my country in the Oregon Air National Guard as a DSG with the 142 MDS (medical squadron—currently now known as 142 MDG, medical group).

Civilian co-workers periodically asked me that day and the following few weeks if I was getting activated. I hadn’t yet but then about a month following 9/11 I received a call, “Would I like to be a security augmentee with the 142 SFS?”. I answered, “Yes!”, recalling that some of my active duty friends had been trained as security augmentees. There would be a two-week training session to start at the end of October 2011. The 142 SFS instructors were Master Sgt. Tim Shuey & Master Sgt. Dan Kane. There were about two dozen of us students in that initial augmentee class learning all about Use of Force, carrying the M-16 & M-9, etc.

As it turned out, I was activated for a total of a year & a half working 12-hr shifts on graveyard. Thank God for coffee!

- Misty D. Gremaud, Tech. Sgt.,
142 FW HQ Unit Deployment Manager


I was at home getting ready to take my sister to the airport; she was returning to Phoenix, Ariz., after a three-day visit, when my mother called to ask if I was watching the news. I was not. She said “turn it on.”

I remember standing in my bedroom with the TV on, phone to my ear. I was very quiet-my mother asked if I was still there. I was. I could not say anything. My mother asked if I was crying and I admitted I was.

I remember asking her if she knew what this meant. I think I knew from the moment I saw the chaos on the television that life for us, all Americans, would forever be different.

Nothing but military planes were flying so of course my sister’s stay was extended by three days. She waited at my house while I reported to the base.

It was not long after that that I got a call from my unit about coming out to the base to, to do something, but we were not certain yet what that something would be.

I was part of the group that stood up the Communications Flight Unit Control Center. We implemented 24-hour coverage immediately and started working the contingency plan as it was being developed by the ANG. We mobilized personnel in accordance with taskings that were developed on the fly to try to cover all possible requirements and have personnel available to maintain operations.

One of my most vivid memories in the hours immediately after the attacks was on one of the nights I was out with one of the Fighter Wing photographers. We were both on the night shift. We were going out and about on base capturing historical documentation. We went out to the flight line; our planes were still the only ones leaving the ground.

It was beyond eerie, very surreal, to be on the flight line, next to PDX, seeing all the commercial planes scattered on the tarmac on the other side of our runways and it was quiet, so very quiet. I still “hear” that quiet today when I think back to that night. I tell this story often.

There was a very young Airman, who looked all of 12 years old, “guarding” our planes that night. I asked if I could take his picture. He said yes and asked what I wanted him to do. I told him just to stand and do his job, guard the plane. In a very serious and quiet tone, he said, “I’ve never guarded a plane before.” We were all still in shock. I showed the young airman the picture I took. He responded that it looked like a little boy holding a gun in front of a plane. I was glad he said that because it was exactly what I was thinking.

It didn’t take long for us to settle into a routine of shift work and responding to new taskings. I don’t remember how long we ran 24-hour coverage, it seemed like a long time.

One of the Chief Master Sergeants in my unit would bring me a mocha every day when he came on duty and I was getting off duty. There were stickers on the cups he brought in to keep the coffee from spilling. There were monkeys, snowmen, ladybugs and lips, lots of lips. I don’t know why, I stuck the stickers to my keyboard. To this day, most of them are still there.

- Jimmie Samuels, Chief Master Sgt.,
142 Communications Flight


I had started working the mid shift on the first of September and I had started car pooling with Staff Sgt. Christopher Rich and Tech. Sgt. Michal Gremaud to work as we all lived in Gresham. The morning of September 10th I was awaiting for Chris because he had to go to see MPF for some reason or another. I had decided to wander up to the installation main gate and talk to Staff Sgt. Randy Tobler.

Shortly after my arrival a FedEx had pulled up and Randy was checking it out. While he was in the back of the truck he called me in to see something. Inside the FedEx truck was a package addressed to PANGB that was all oily and had something mechanical with wires inside. The topper to this package is that all the return address stated was "From

Korea". So I looked at him and said "Call it." Referring to run it as a suspicious package. This turned out from me doing my nice normal eight-hour day into doing a nice 14-hour day.

So I returned to work later that evening, about 2300 to start my normal shift. At this time I am also training Staff Sgt. Jasmine Wood to be a controller. The night shift is going rather regularly until I get a call from Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Buckner to find out if I had heard the news. We had a radio on a local music station, but we had no Television out there so I replied no, and so she quickly stated that two airplanes crashed into towers in New York and to turn on the news. Which again I said we had no TV and heard nothing on the local radio yet, so I started to look at news stations on the internet with no avail.

Senior Airman Jacox also had called shortly after her to give me the same basic details but other than that no word - nothing until about twenty minutes later the command post called up and initiated Force Protection Alpha. At that time I walked outside, lit a cigarette, took a drag (to give me a moment of calm to think of all that we need to do) set the lit cigarette down and then announced it over the radio.

- Jason Hunt, Master Sgt.,
142nd Security Forces Squadron


The day flew past after the second aircraft hit the tower. It was 0545L when I got into work and started watching the news. The top story was the plane crash into the first tower. As a former Intel guy this looked wrong to me and I called Col Dean at his home to have him take a look at the news. We discussed the issue for a moment and then the second aircraft struck the tower.

Col Dean gave me the green light to start a full recall and to get the Battlestaff rolling. As a single controller I was running the show. Flash message traffic started flowing through every Communications channel. We were moving into a war footing in an extreme hurry. The phones started ringing off the hook. There was a small contingent of pilots that were just showing up for CT flying and one Base Operations guy. Then the news came in that the Pentagon was hit. CT flying was cancelled, all eyes were on my TV.

The Western Air Defense Sector’s Comm was down so I had to act as a relay for all high priority traffic received from all MAJCOM’s. I completed the recall and tried to get a relief controller to make it in. The base went into lockdown mode as things progressed. Personnel trying to get to work were locked out of the base for over 4 hours and were stuck up at the Golf Course.

Meanwhile back at Operations, the Alert jets were put on Runway Alert and maintenance started prepping all flyable aircraft for combat. CT flying was cancelled and all aircrew were standing by for further orders. With a very small Battlestaff and SRC the Wing went into combat mode. Orders soon came in to start flying Combat Air Patrols over key possible targets and our aircraft were airborne in support of Operation Noble Eagle.

I was keeping the flash traffic flow moving but was running on fumes by the end of my 19 hour day. Soon after we started flying CAP’s the order came in to stand up McChord AFB as an Alert Site. We only had four fulltime controllers and four Guardsmen. All were recalled and three headed up to McChord to stand up alert.

With seven controllers and one augmentee we began running two 24/7 Alert CP’s. No one could get sick or take leave during this eight month period. CP Controllers did an outstanding job during this timeframe. Finally after four hours my assistant controller made it in and started helping me with all the message, phone and coordination efforts. A plan was in full affect and the Wing was pressing forward.

The 142d Fighter Wing became the first Wing to stand up all aircraft in Combat Mode to thwart any attack on the Pacific Northwest region and the Continental United States. All Civilian flights were cancelled and inbound flights were diverted to airports outside of the US. Aircrews scrambled on any possible threats and escorted a Chinese Airlines into an airport in Canada.

After my day was complete I walked out of the Operations building and was amazed about how quiet it was, the moment was very surreal for me. After a long drive back to Scappoose, it finally hit me as to what had happened to our country, the wing and me that day.

I must say that I shed a few tears during my quiet time at home that my wife provided me so I could decompress after such a crazy day. The Wing pressed on and flew numerous missions protecting key infrastructure and letting the evil doers know that the Pacific Northwest was not going to suffer the same fate that NYC encountered.

- David A. Fry, Senior MasterSgt., 142 Fighter Wing,
Command Post Superintendent


I was a brand new Public Affairs officer and just transferred up from Klamath Falls, Ore., a small community with one news station. The day before on my first day onboard at the 142nd Fighter Wing we had a suspicious package/possible bomb threat at the front gate. This closed down Cornfoot Road and business access and in turn the media started calling in.

I didn’t even have computer access yet to draft a press release so I set up a news conference and prepped the Vice Commander to do an interview. It was a hectic day not knowing the local news organizations and barely my way around base.

When I got home that night I was hoping that was as bad as it would get. The next day and ensuing weeks threw me from the frying pan right into the fire as a PAO. Our Combat Air Patrols were the only jets flying and the headline news.

Anything 9/11 related seemed to get tied back into our mission of Air Defense for a local spin. Several months later a story that made the New York Times turned out to be a comedy of coincidences. Our jets were flying and explosions went off in downtown Portland. With the first thought being that it was an attack Tug flew over to investigate? 911 was saturated with calls, immediately with our jets in the air it was assumed they were engaged etc. It was quickly determined that there was a movie being filmed and the company didn’t bother making all the right notifications.

(That incident) gave me a career’s worth of PA experience in a fraction of time. It taught me to appreciate life and not take things for granted.

- Misti Mazzia, Maj.,
142 Communications Flight Commander


On Tuesday morning 9/11/01 I was standing in line for breakfast in a field near Diamond, Ore., participating in my first "Cycle Oregon" (an annual week-long bike tour of various corners of our state). The people in front of me were in a strange state of stunned silence having just heard about the attacks from a small transistor radio hung on a tent pole near the food line.

People were asking what was going on and then reacting. Behind me were people who were still living in the "Pre-9/11" world and were blissfully looking forward to their day. I was literally standing in between the groups of people suddenly now living in two very different worlds.

At the time I was the State Director of Operations assigned to JFHQ in Salem. I called in from a phone in the nearby schoolhouse office and while I was waiting to get through, I watched the first tower collapse on a small black & white TV inside the principal's office. It was a surreal experience. For the next day or two, I would call in from various fields and hilltops for instructions and was told to just keep checking in as the State plans slowly were put into place.

A week later while driving over the I-5 Bridge in Portland, on a cell phone call to JFHQ, I volunteered to command the Joint Task Force which put Oregon Air & Army Guardsmen in all of our state's commercial airports until the now familiar TSA was formed and stood up. We performed that duty for over nine months. We had between 90 and 110 airmen and soldiers overseeing security checkpoints hastily constructed to usher in a new world of air travel for us all.

Like many of us, my emotions ranged from sadness to anger to resolve. I was proud of those people who stepped up to man checkpoints at the airports for all that time. It was an all too typical example of the fine character that our guardsmen emulate.

- George Smeraglio, Col., (Ret.)
Oregon Air National Guard


On September 11, 2001, I was on F-15 alert at Portland Oregon with Lt. Col. Mike
“B-9” Bieniewicz when at approximately 0630 the klaxon sounded and B-9 and I were tasked for Battle Stations.

As I left my room from a deep slumber and ran towards hangars, I noticed the breaking news story on the television about an aircraft that had just crashed into the Twin Towers. I had no idea that the event that had just occurred would change this country and our unit forever.

As I strapped into the aircraft, the crew chiefs began telling us what had just happened since they were awake and in the middle of a crew swap. My first thought was to ignore the distraction and focus on the job I had at that moment. During our two-hour wait in the aircraft, the crew chiefs continued to update us on the events. The emotions ran high for all of us that morning, but we all realized that we had to remain focused.

We remained on Battle Stations for about two hours when the Western Defense Sector finally decided cancel the alert task. After B-9 and I left our respective cockpits we met in the ready room, watched the news, and began discussing what our next steps were to be.

B-9 was the Operations Officer at the time and needed to get back to the squadron to man the Emergency Operations Center so Capt. Matt “Weed” Schuster replaced him. When we performed the crew swap, I assumed the flight lead position and we remained at the ready. Weed and I discussed the events that transpired and what our actions were to be if we were launched. We discussed numerous different scenarios. At that time we had no clear guidance on dealing with this type of asymmetric threat. Needless to say we thought of all scenarios to include the worst case.

I recall the sickening feeling after discussing some of the options we faced but yet we both realized that we had a job to do; support and defend the constitution…against all enemies foreign and domestic.

At about 1215L, a pilot meeting was called and Weed and I were getting ready to drive the alert vehicle to operations when in the parking lot, the klaxon sounded again. Weed and I glanced at each other for about a millisecond; we both thought the scenarios we discussed earlier might become a reality. I can’t begin to explain how sickening a feeling that was.

Weed and I raced to our aircraft, started, taxied, and took off in about four minutes from notification. As I became airborne, I remember turning right over downtown Vancouver, Wash., at what seemed to be treetop level in full afterburner; we had to go North and had to get there quick. When airborne, I contacted Seattle Center and they told me I could go wherever I needed because there was no airborne traffic. I remember the silence on the radio. Seattle Center is a pretty busy sector, which means a lot of radio chatter. But on that day it was dead quiet. Eerily quiet.

WADS directed us to intercept an aircraft coming in from the west. As we began our descent from higher altitude over Canada west lost contact with WADS. That was a little concerning because the last guidance we had was to look for signs of duress. I rejoined on the 747 when he was on a downwind for approach. I started on the left wing and then transitioned to the right. Nothing looked unusual. As the 747 began to configure, I configured and followed him all the way to landing. I could only imagine what the passengers thought seeing two armed fighter on their wing all the way to landing.

Weed and I performed a low approach. There were what seemed to be hundreds of airplanes spread out all over Vancouver, BC. Every taxiway and the runways were filled up with every major air carrier out there. Weed and I turned south, climbed to about 27,000 feet and headed home.

- Steve Beauchamp, Col., Alert Pilot
Oregon Air National Guard


I was leaving my house for work when a neighbor girl was walking by and stopped me to say "did you hear about the plane that hit the twin tower" I stood there staring.... waiting for the punch line... when she informed me it really happened.

I went back into the house, turned on the news, and saw the second tower get hit on the television. My first thought was - I better get to work. And when I did, the office was buzzing.

My boss at the time was in a meeting in the basement of the Pentagon. After flight 77 hit, it all seemed surreal. It took a while to reach him, connect with his wife, and report to everyone to let them know he was okay. I was in reaction mode and the full effect of the day didn't sink-in until later.

Every TV in the building was on the news, every computer was logged onto CNN.
There were a range of emotions whenever anyone spoke of the current events, but mostly everyone was in awe.

- Tracy Ann Gill,
Executive Assistant-Office of the Adjutant General,
Oregon Military Department


On September 11, 2001, I was station at Fort Hood, Texas as a 19K tank driver. I was getting ready to go to formation from the barracks when I received a phone call from a friend back home in Oregon. She told me to turn the TV. Evidently a plane just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. I turned to CNN and watched as the one tower was engulfed in smoke.

Within a few minutes I had about 10 fellow Soldier sitting in my room, and we watched in disbelief as the second plane crashed into the other tower. The formation was no longer a priority. The CQ finally came to the barracks as we were about 10 minutes late (9:10) and told all of us to get down stairs for the formation. At formation the First Sergeant told us to pack our bags, as we were going back to Kuwait (we had just returned from there in August). He then said to go back to our rooms and continue to watch the news. We made it back in time to watch the first tower fall.

I was transferred to Delta Company in October 2011 so I could redeploy to Kuwait in November. It was my third tour in two years to the same place. We were deployed for five months as a security operation on the boarder of Iraq, and to help train the Kuwaiti Army in tank combat.

- Nicolas Valleton, Sgt., Oregon Army National Guard,
Assistant Brigade Operations NCO

No comments: