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9/14/2001 - Guard Responds

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
National Guard Bureau

Nearly 7,000 Army National Guard men and women plus several thousand Air Guard personnel, some fearing for the well-being of family members and personal friends, were on duty in 26 states across the country on September's second Thursday to help fellow Americans cope with the unspeakable acts of terrorism against their homeland.

Lt. Gen. Russell Davis, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, pledged the National Guard's complete and unwavering support as President George Bush declared the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 as "acts of war."

About 3,800 Guard troops were reported to be on duty in New York two days after two hijacked jetliners crashed into, and then toppled, the World Trade Center's towers as some 50,000 people were beginning the day's work.

Another 1,000 Empire State citizen-soldiers were standing by in case they were needed, said Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, a New York National Guard spokesman.

"We will have to deal with this situation for a long time," Fanning predicted. "We are already having to think about getting replacements for exhausted troops who have been sent into lower Manhattan to help with the rescue and recovery efforts."

More than 600 citizen-soldiers from a District of Columbia Army Guard military police battalion were helping Metropolitan Police and other civilian agencies guard the capital city's streets. Air Guard jet fighters began patrolling the skies after another jetliner plowed into the western side of the Pentagon on Tuesday morning.

Members of the 372nd Military Police Battalion were dispatched in small groups to help secure the city, said a District of Columbia Guard official. Another 560 Guard soldiers were called up in Virginia and Maryland.

Two Army Guard military police companies from Maryland were helping provide security around the Pentagon by Wednesday, said a spokesman at the Army Guard's Readiness Center in Arlington, Va.

As many as 2,000 New York citizen-soldiers began reporting for duty against this war from within on Tuesday, and more than 800 troops from neighboring New Jersey responded to the crisis at the World Trade Center.

"I must have come across body parts by the thousands," one New Jersey Guard soldier, Angelo Otchy, told the Associated Press.

Although the largest groups of National Guard troops were on duty in New York and Washington, hundreds of others, including military police personnel, were called to help civilian officials staff emergency operations centers and to guard military installations as far away as Hawaii, Guard officials explained.

The numbers of National Guard troops were expected to increase, Guard officials stated, as the nation began dealing with its worst incidents of domestic terrorism.

Furthermore, Army Guard infantry soldiers in Alaska stood by in case they were needed to help protect the Alaskan Pipeline. That was one example of how that black Tuesday's terrorist strikes on the East Coast galvanized the entire National Guard and all other military forces across the country.

The floods, wildfires and domestic disturbances that Guard troops traditionally respond to, as well as the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, paled by comparison to the horror that struck at America from the skies with fully-fueled airliners carrying innocent passengers on the morning of Sept. 11.

"On behalf of the men and women of the National Guard, I express our deepest sympathy to those who have been touched by the terrible events of this day," stated the chief of the National Guard Bureau. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and friends.

"As you've already heard from President Bush, we owe it to our citizens and to the citizens of all law abiding nations to do all that we can to prevent terrorist actions and to bring those responsible for spreading hate and death to justice," Lt. Gen. Davis added.

"National Guard units are already at work in New York and the District of Columbia, supporting emergency response efforts," Davis said. "We join other units of the armed forces, standing ready to assist as needed."

That included scrambling Air Guard fighters, plus airborne radar and refueling planes, for combat air patrols over major metropolitan areas as precautionary measures, stated Air Guard Maj. Don Arias at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. He is the spokesman for the 1st Air Force that commands all Air Guard fighter units responsible for the United States' air sovereignty.

Arias was one of America's Guard people who remained on duty even though they were personally affected by the calamity.

His younger brother Adam, 37, is a senior vice president who was working on the 86th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower for an international brokerage firm. Adam Arias did not return to his Staten Island home on Tuesday night, Maj. Arias explained.

His two other brothers distributed flyers bearing their brother's picture in New York on Wednesday and were trying to find Adam at emergency aid stations and morgues, Maj. Arias explained.

"He's missing in action, and my family is looking for him," the Air Guard officer said Thursday morning. He said he had spoken by telephone to his brother after a jetliner exploded into the North Tower at about 8:45 a.m. and five or 10 minutes before the South Tower was hit.

" 'This is prime time. All of these people are just coming to work,' " Maj. Arias said his brother told him as he watched people falling to their deaths. " 'I've got to go. We're evacuating the building.' "

"It's an all-out war. I wear the uniform, and I feel I need to be doing my job," explained Maj. Arias about why he remained on duty Tuesday and Wednesday.

Other Guard soldiers escaped with their lives from the airliner crashes that added a new dimension to the National Guard's definition of weapons of mass destruction.

Six New York Army Guard counterdrug soldiers were working in an office on the sixth floor of one of the World Trade Center buildings, and all have been accounted for, reported New York Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Fanning.

Army Guard Maj. Dan Stoneking, a public affairs officer, was in the Pentagon, walking along an inner corridor, when a Boeing 757 slammed into the building at about 9:30 a.m. about 100 yards away from him, he estimated.

"I heard a loud bang, the hallway shook, and smoke was billowing toward me all at the same time," Stoneking recounted. "Within seconds people were running from their offices.

"I was impressed by the calm and determined demeanor of the people as they evacuated the building. They moved with a purpose," Stoneking added. "I would estimate most everyone exited the building within 20 minutes.

"I had seen on television what was happening in New York," Stoneking added Wednesday morning. "There was no doubt in my mind that an aircraft had hit the Pentagon just as the planes had hit World Trade Center.

"I've been working with National Guard people all over the country for the past 22 hours. The response has been phenomenal," Stoneking said. "I'm proud to be a Guard guy."

Was he surprised that terrorism of such magnitude could hit so close to home?

"I have never doubted that something like this could happen in America just like it could anywhere else in the world," Stoneking grimly responded. "We're not immune."

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