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Context of 'September 4, 2001: Army Restricts Access to Fort Belvoir'

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A MASCAL (mass casualty) training exercise is held at Fort Belvoir, an army base 12 miles south of the Pentagon. It is “designed to enhance the first ready response in dealing with the effects of a terrorist incident involving an explosion.” [MDW News Service, 7/5/2001]

Entity Tags: Fort Belvoir

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters Complex at Fort Belvoir.The Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters Complex at Fort Belvoir. [Source: US Army] (click image to enlarge)The US Army sharply restricts public access to Fort Belvoir, one of its installations about 12 miles south of the Pentagon. After being an open post for over 25 years, Belvoir has now erected barriers across many of the roads leading into it, leaving only six guarded gates as points of entry and exit. Twenty access points are being permanently closed. Visitors must now register their vehicles at a visitor’s center or get a day pass to enter the base. [MDW News Service, 7/2001; Washington Post, 8/15/2001] The access restrictions will allow commanders to know who is entering the base 24 hours a day and adjust security measures immediately if needed. [MDW News Service, 8/3/2001] All other Military District of Washington (MDW) installations are implementing similar changes, due to Army concerns about terrorism (see August 15, 2001). Fort Belvoir has about 20,000 workers and is home to many different agencies, including the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), plus the headquarters of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Technical Information Service. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000; Washington Post, 8/15/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 10/21/2001] Occupying over 500 acres at Belvoir is Davison Army Airfield. The 12th Aviation Battalion, which is MDW’s aviation-support unit, is stationed at Davison. This operates UH1 “Huey” and UH60 Black Hawk helicopters in support of training and “contingencies” for various MDW units. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/5/2002] The Washington Post has reported, “Fort Belvoir will be holding exercises the next two Tuesdays to test the changes” in access to the base. [Washington Post, 8/15/2001] This will therefore include September 11 (a Tuesday). Other reports will confirm an antiterrorism exercise being conducted at Belvoir on 9/11 (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Fort Belvoir, Military District of Washington

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A helicopter and its crew that are always on standby for “contingency” missions in the Washington area are away from base early this morning conducting a traffic survey, but apparently return at some point before the Pentagon is hit. The crew belongs to the 12th Aviation Battalion. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 pdf file; Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 pdf file] The 12th Aviation Battalion is stationed at Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir, located 12 miles south of the Pentagon. It is the aviation support unit for the Military District of Washington, and operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000] According to a chief warrant officer with the unit, the 12th Aviation Battalion has “two crews that are always on standby for any kind of contingency mission.” It is one of these crews that is “out flying around doing a traffic survey.” [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 pdf file] The exact time period during which the crew and their helicopter are away from base is unstated, but they apparently return to Davison Airfield before 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 pdf file] They will be the first crew with the battalion to take off in support of the rescue operations at the Pentagon once the unit’s aircraft are permitted to launch again following the attack. Others members of the 12th Aviation Battalion are also away from base this morning, for weapons training (see 8:46 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: 12th Aviation Battalion, Davison Army Airfield

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At Fort Belvoir, an army base 12 miles south of the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Mark R. Lindon is conducting a “garrison control exercise” when the 9/11 attacks begin. The object of this exercise is to “test the security at the base in case of a terrorist attack.” Lindon later says, “I was out checking on the exercise and heard about the World Trade Center on my car radio. As soon as it was established that this was no accident, we went to a complete security mode.” Staff Sgt. Mark Williams of the Military District of Washington Engineer Company at Fort Belvoir also later says: “Ironically, we were conducting classes about rescue techniques when we were told of the planes hitting the World Trade Center.” Williams’ team is one of the first response groups to arrive at the site of the Pentagon crash and one of the first to enter the building following the attack. [Connection Newspapers, 9/5/2002] A previous MASCAL (mass casualty) training exercise was held at Fort Belvoir a little over two months earlier (see June 29, 2001). It was “designed to enhance the first ready response in dealing with the effects of a terrorist incident involving an explosion.” [MDW News Service, 7/5/2001] Located at Fort Belvoir is Davison Army Airfield, from where UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly. Davison’s mission includes maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” [Pentagram, 5/7/1999; Military District of Washington, 8/2000]

Entity Tags: Mark R. Lindon, World Trade Center, Fort Belvoir, Mark Williams

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The MDW Engineer Company.The MDW Engineer Company. [Source: Tim Hipps / US Army]An agent in the Secret Service’s technical security division (TSD) is instructed to contact the “structural collapse team” at Fort Belvoir—an Army base 12 miles south of Washington, DC—and request its assistance. At 9:07 a.m., according to a Secret Service chronology, the agent is “advised to alert the [Department of Defense] structural collapse team… at Fort Belvoir.” The “alert,” according to the chronology, will “instruct all of the structural collapse personnel associated with the special program that the Secret Service may have a need for their assets, and they should report to their duty station.” [United States Secret Service, 9/12/2001]
Military Unit Specializes in 'Collapsed-Building Rescue' - Although its name is unstated, the “structural collapse team” is presumably the Military District of Washington (MDW) Engineer Company, which is based at Fort Belvoir. The MDW Engineer Company’s mission, according to one of its members, “involves rescue from collapsed structures in the national capital area.” [MDW News Service, 9/23/2001] It is “the only unit in the US Army that specializes in collapsed-building rescue.” [Fort Belvoir News, 4/4/2002] The MDW Engineer Company includes 76 soldiers, and has equipment such as bulldozers, bucket loaders, and dump trucks. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 96] The reason why the Secret Service requests its help is unstated.
Collapse Team Put on 'Alert Status' - At an unspecified time later in the day, the TSD duty desk will receive a call from a supervisor, who says the “structural collapse team” is “on alert status.” The unit is put on “30-minute standby” for the White House. [United States Secret Service, 2001, pp. 10-11] The MDW Engineer Company will also be asked to deploy to the Pentagon in response to the attack there, and its personnel will arrive at the Pentagon between around 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 96] They will be involved in the rescue and recovery operations there for the next 10 days. [Belvoir Eagle, 2/16/2012] The Secret Service’s TSD, which contacts the MDW Engineer Company, has numerous responsibilities that include providing “technical and physical protection for all designated Secret Service protectees by ensuring a safe environment,” and identifying “threats or hazards at any given site” and implementing countermeasures. [United States Secret Service, 2009, pp. 53 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Military District of Washington Engineer Company

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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