Saturday, November 15, 2008

Somers Point 9/11

Somers Point 9/11 - From Lynn Spencer's Touching History book.

“177 Fighter Wing. Atlantic City, New Jersey, 9:10 a.m. In Somers Point, New Jersey, Lt. Col. Brian Webster, who is the acting wing commander for the 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City because his higher-ups are out of town, was enjoying a lazy morning at home on his day off. Then his wife called to him while he was in the shower to let him know that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center.”

“He got out of the shower immediately and made a quick check of the television coverage. His full-time job is as a Boeing 767 captain for American Airlines, and he knew right away that only a big plane could cause such a large explosion. Then he saw United 175 make impact.”

“He grabbed his flight suit and dressed in a rush, and when his wife asked him why he had to go to the base, he called out simply, ‘That was a 767! That’s why I have to go to work!’”

“Now screeching out of his driveway, he grabs his cell phone and calls the base to instruct the SOF to hold the launch of a scheduled training mission, a routine practice bombing run over Fort Drum in Central New York.”

“ ‘Done that, sir!’ Lt. Col. James Haye, the SOF, answers. The F-16s, which had been taxiing out for takeoff, have already been brought back to the hanger. Haye had seen the coverage too, and had ordered the planes back right away.”

“ ‘Shut down the practice mission altogether and I’ll be at the base within five minutes,’ Webster barks before hanging up. Next he calls the Command Post and orders, ‘Raise the base’s threat protection level to Charlie!’”

“Military threat conditions range from ‘A’ (peacetime) to “D” (base lockdown and under attack). Thread condition “C,” or Charlie, is a wartime posture. It activates a whole slew of security measures to prepare for a possible attack. Webster knows that these ‘accidents’ have terrorism written all over them, and if America is at war he’s determined that Atlantic City is going to be ready to respond.”

“In the years since the base was pulled off the Air Sovereignty Alert Mission, the base’s highly secured Command Post had gradually reverted to a highly secured storage closet, used just once a month for duty weekends, when the troops would train. Personnel are now quickly bringing the Command Post to life, turning on all te lights and bringing the various computers and monitors online. When the loudspeakers announce the transition to Threat Con Charlie, the pace becomes frenzied.”

”Arriving at Operations a short time later, Webster finds one of his master sergeants busy calling up staff and ordering them to report to base. Nobody has told him to do so; nobody had to. The base is rapidly transitioning from a nonalert peacetime setting to full war status.”

“Webster instructs the Operations Support Flight commander to offload the practice missiles and munitions from the fighter jets and replace them with live ones. This will take some time, as the missiles are not stored near the aircraft. A convoy will have to transport them to the flight line, where the fighters are parked, with security escort as a safeguard.”

“‘Get me authenticators,’ he orders next, turning to Haye. He knows that if he is uploading missiles, he is going to need these. Each pilot is given an authenticator – a peace of paper with code in a series of letters – which is valid for only one 24-hour period. When a pilot receives an order to fire, he must follow a strict protocol. He asks for an authentication code, and the code is given must match the one on his authenticator. If they don’t match, he cannot legally comply. The highly classified authenticators are issued to all alert sites, as well as each controlling authority, in this case NEADS, by courier each month. Unfortunately, Atlantic City is no longer an alert site, so they don’t have any authenticators.”

“They’re going to have to get some – fast! Today Webster wants live missiles and he wants authenticators.”

“These orders at a nonalert fighter wing of the Air National Guard are unprecedented. Air National Guard jets don’t simply fly around the United States with live missiles. Guardsmen train to fight wars overseas, not fly armed combat over the United States. There aren’t rules of engagement for war at home, and certainly not for fighters that aren’t even part of the Air Defense Mission. Live missiles? Authenticators? The weapons chief is less than enthusiastic about these orders and he asks to have a word with the colonel.”

“‘Just do it!’ Webster responds, and turns abruptly to walk away. The matter is not up for discussion.”

“….After Garvey announces that United 93 is closing in on the capitol, the decision is made to evacuate the White House and institute COG for the first time in history. Mineta and other senior government officials are quickly relocated to more secure locations, remaining in contact via their cell phones in the interim.”

“….Unknown to NEADS, their lead F-16 pilot over Washington is being given the shoot-down authority directly from the Secret Service, bypassing the military chain of command….”

“…When the DCANG asserts its authority over the operation, however, it causes some tension. Dog, the SOF at the D.C. Guard, gets on the phone to the SOF of the 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City, Lt. Col. James Haye. ‘We’ve got airplanes running all over the place!” Dog Snaps. ‘We’ve got to coordinate here or someone is going to end up shooting someone down!’”

“Haye is not pleased with what he’s hearing. ‘Wait a minute,’ he objects, ‘no one should be shooting at anyone. This is getting way out of control!’”

“A spirited discussion follows. Dog repeatedly asks for the radio frequency that the Atlantic City jets are on and the details of their mission over the capitol. Being there in Washington, one of the Capital Guardians, he feels a natural inclination to take the lead in bringing order to the situation, but Heye is agitated. He is not even sure of all the answers to the questions Dog is asking, and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that the D.C. Guard pilots are operating under different rules of engagement than are his own fighters. Those rules of engagement – flying weapons-free- are not sitting too well with Haye. Firing weapons is a very serious matter, and the insinuation that ‘someone is going to get shot down’ unless something changes is simply unacceptable.”

“ ‘Listen, I have airplanes down there, and you have airplanes down there,’ Haye growls, ‘and nobody is talking on the same frequency! If you guys have a target, I strongly suggest that you be sure to make visual identification before shooting!’”

“Tensions between the D.C. Guard and Atlantic City will run strong for days to come….”

“…Finally, at 3:30, Sliney is relieved to be able to announce that the last of the flights inbound to the United States has landed. From his post, he watches a new, military-directed air traffic control system emerge under NORAD’s ESCAT order…..”

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