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Context of '9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001: Commander at Barksdale Air Base Thinks First Crash Is an Exercise Simulation'

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Offutt Air Force Base control tower during Global Guardian 1998.Offutt Air Force Base control tower during Global Guardian 1998. [Source: Jeffery S. Viano]As the 9/11 attacks are taking place, a large military training exercise called Global Guardian is said to be “in full swing.” It has been going on since the previous week. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/10/2002] Global Guardian is an annual exercise sponsored by US Strategic Command (Stratcom) in cooperation with US Space Command and NORAD. One military author defines Stratcom as “the single US military command responsible for the day-to-day readiness of America’s nuclear forces.” [Arkin, 2005, pp. 59]
Exercise Tests Military's Ability to Fight a Nuclear War - Global Guardian is a global readiness exercise involving all Stratcom forces and aims to test Stratcom’s ability to fight a nuclear war. It is one of many “practice Armageddons” that the US military routinely stages. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/1/1997; Associated Press, 2/21/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/10/2002] It links with a number of other military exercises, including Crown Vigilance (an Air Combat Command exercise), Apollo Guardian (a US Space Command exercise), and the NORAD exercises Vigilant Guardian and Amalgam Warrior. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005] Global Guardian is both a command post and a field training exercise, and is based around a fictitious scenario designed to test the ability of Stratcom and its component forces to deter a military attack against the US. Hundreds of military personnel are involved. [US Congress, n.d.; Collins Center Update, 12/1999 pdf file; Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] The exercise involves “a lot of the elements of what ultimately would be the nuclear command and control system in support of a national emergency,” according to Admiral Richard Mies, the commander in chief of Stratcom. It includes an “exercise secretary of defense” and “an exercise president.” Mies will say that because of the exercise, “A lot of [Stratcom’s] command and control systems that, in peacetime, are normally not on alert were at a much, much higher state of alert [on September 11] and we had a number of aircraft, manned control aircraft that were airborne that were simulating their wartime roles.” [NET News, 12/27/2011]
Exercise Normally Held in October or November - According to a 1998 Internet article by the British American Security Information Council—an independent research organization—Global Guardian is held in October or November each year. [Kristensen, 10/1998] In his book Code Names, NBC News military analyst William Arkin dates this exercise for October 22-31, 2001. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 379] And a military newspaper reported in March 2001 that Global Guardian was scheduled for October 2001. [Space Observer, 3/23/2001, pp. 2 pdf file] If this is correct, then some time after March, the exercise must have been rescheduled for early September.
Exercise Includes a 'Computer Network Attack' - Furthermore, a 1998 Defense Department newsletter reported that for several years Stratcom had been incorporating a computer network attack (CNA) into Global Guardian. The attack involved Stratcom “red team” members and other organizations acting as enemy agents, and included attempts to penetrate the command using the Internet and a “bad” insider who had access to a key command and control system. The attackers “war dialed” the phones to tie them up and sent faxes to numerous fax machines throughout the Command. They also claimed they were able to shut down Stratcom’s systems. Reportedly, Stratcom planned to increase the level of computer network attack in future Global Guardian exercises. [IAnewsletter, 6/1998 pdf file] It is unclear if a computer network attack is incorporated into Global Guardian in 2001.

Entity Tags: US Strategic Command, Apollo Guardian, Crown Vigilance, Global Guardian, North American Aerospace Defense Command, US Department of Defense, US Space Command, Vigilant Guardian, Amalgam Warrior, Richard Mies

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel and aircraft at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are participating in the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] The exercise is based around the scenario of a rogue nation attacking the United States with nuclear weapons. At Barksdale, according to journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, air crews taking part in the exercise have been “pulling nuclear bombs and missiles out of their heavily guarded storage sites and loading them aboard B-52s” this morning. Real, live nuclear weapons are being used, but “their triggers [are] not armed.” [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 22] Colonel Mike Reese, director of staff for the 8th Air Force, is monitoring several television screens at the base as part of the exercise when he sees CNN cut into coverage of the first World Trade Center crash, two minutes after it happens. He watches live when the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. Reese will later recall that at this point, “[W]e knew it wasn’t a mistake. Something grave was happening that put the nation’s security at risk.” An article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune will describe how awareness of the real attacks impacts those participating in the exercise: “Immediately [the Barksdale staff’s] focus turned to defense, securing Barksdale, Minot [North Dakota], and Whiteman [Missouri] air force bases, where dozens of aircraft and hundreds of personnel were involved in the readiness exercise ‘Global Guardian.’ The exercise abruptly ended as the United States appeared to be at war within its own borders. Four A-10s, an aircraft not designed for air-to-air combat, from Barksdale’s 47th Fighter Squadron, were placed on ‘cockpit alert,’ the highest state of readiness for fighter pilots. Within five minutes, the A-10s, equipped only with high intensity cannons, could have been launched to destroy unfriendly aircraft, even if it was a civilian passenger airliner.” Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Walker, commander of the 47th Fighter Squadron, and a novice pilot still in training are sitting in their jets, ready to take off, when they are ordered back to the squadron office. They are told they are no longer practicing. Walker will recall: “We had to defend the base against any aircraft, airliner or civilian. We had no idea. Would it fly to the base and crash into the B-52s or A-10s on the flight line?” [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] When Air Force One with President Bush on Board takes off from Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), it will initially have no no fixed destination. But after a short time, it will begin heading toward Barksdale Air Force Base and land there at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325]

Entity Tags: Barksdale Air Force Base, Mike Reese, Edmund Walker, Global Guardian

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Thomas Keck.Thomas Keck. [Source: US Air Force]When Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, is told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, he mistakenly thinks this is a simulated scenario as part of a training exercise. [2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002, pp. 40 pdf file; American History, 10/2006 pdf file] Barksdale is one of a number of Air Force bases where aircraft and personnel are currently participating in the exercise Global Guardian (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] This annual exercise is run by the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) and aims to test the command’s ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/1/1997; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005]
Keck Thinks Crash Is a 'Scenario Injection' - Keck is sitting in a windowless command center at Barksdale, monitoring the base’s participation in Global Guardian. Ground crews are practicing getting a fleet of B-52 bombers fueled, armed, and ready to get airborne for bombing runs. Keck watches on a monitor as, at exactly 9:00 a.m., an alarm sounds across the base and the crews rush to their planes. Then a younger officer taps him on the shoulder and tells him, “Sir, we just had an aircraft hit the World Trade Center.” Keck mistakenly thinks the officer is describing a simulated crisis that is being included in the exercise. He says: “That’s not the way you interject a situation into a training exercise! When you have a scenario injection, you say, ‘Sir, this is an exercise input,’ and then you give me the information.” But the younger officer replies, “No, sir,” and points at a television showing CNN, which is broadcasting live coverage of the burning WTC in New York.
Keck Thinks First Crash Is an Accident - Keck’s initial thought upon seeing the TV coverage is reportedly, “How could such a terrible accident happen?” It is only when Keck sees the second plane hitting the WTC at 9:03 a.m. that he will realize the US is under attack. He then yells to his staff, “Lock it down,” thereby signaling that the exercise is over. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file] (However, according to an article in The Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base, Stratcom will put Global Guardian on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but only terminate the exercise at 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file] ) After seeing the second crash, Keck will leave the command center from where he has been monitoring the exercise and go to the 8th Air Force battle staff, to be briefed on reports coming from Air Force headquarters about the ongoing terrorist attacks. He will later on accompany President Bush while he is at Barksdale, after landing there on Air Force One at about 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American History, 10/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Global Guardian, Barksdale Air Force Base, Thomas Keck

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The US Strategic Command (Stratcom) orders that its Global Guardian exercise be put on pause at this time, according to a 2006 article in The Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file] Global Guardian is an annual exercise sponsored by Stratcom, which has its headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The exercise tests Stratcom’s ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005] Many aircraft and personnel at Barksdale, as well as other military bases, are involved in it (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] Global Guardian will be formally terminated at 10:44 a.m., according to The Bombardier (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), although other reports will say it is canceled earlier on, possibly after the second World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Global Guardian, US Strategic Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The US Strategic Command (Stratcom) formally terminates its Global Guardian exercise at this time, according to a 2006 article in The Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. Global Guardian was put on pause just over 90 minutes earlier, according to the same article (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file] However, other reports will suggest that Global Guardian was canceled significantly earlier than 10:44 a.m. One article in the Omaha World-Herald will state, “When the second World Trade Center tower was hit,” at 9:03 a.m., “the exercise was canceled, and the battle staff [at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska] moved to the real-world crisis.” [Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002] But an earlier article in the World-Herald will say that military authorities canceled Global Guardian “after the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon,” suggesting some time after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft that was involved in Global Guardian was reportedly only told to pull out of the exercise just after the Pentagon was hit (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144] Even after Global Guardian is canceled, this plane and two other E-4Bs that are involved in the exercise will remain airborne. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] The annual Global Guardian exercise tests Stratcom’s ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Global Guardian, US Strategic Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base.Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Win McNamee / Reuters]Air Force One, with President Bush on board, lands at Barksdale Air Force Base—the home of the B-52 bomber—near Shreveport, Louisiana. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; BBC, 9/1/2002] The president’s plane was escorted by fighter jets from the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard as it came in to land (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001; Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Bush, 2010, pp. 132] Two of those fighters now land at Barksdale with Air Force One while the other two remain airborne, flying a combat air patrol over Shreveport and Bossier City. Aircraft and personnel at Barksdale were participating in the major training exercise Global Guardian this morning, before the terrorist attacks began (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), and after touching down, Air Force One taxies past 40 fully loaded B-52s. [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file; Draper, 2007, pp. 141] Air Force personnel dressed in full combat gear and brandishing M-16s then set up a perimeter around the plane. [Time, 9/14/2001] Bush initially remains on board, gathering more intelligence. There is no mobile gangway on the tarmac and so he is unable to get off through his usual door in the top half of Air Force One. Instead, the flight crew opens a hatch near the belly of the plane and lowers a set of retractable stairs while Bush continues working the phones. The president finally gets off the plane just before noon and is then escorted away from it amid tight security (see (11:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 111-112] The Daily Telegraph will later comment, “The official reason for landing at Barksdale was that Mr. Bush felt it necessary to make a further statement (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001), but it isn’t unreasonable to assume that—as there was no agreement as to what the president’s movements should be—it was felt he might as well be on the ground as in the air.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Bush will remain at Barksdale Air Force Base for almost two hours before taking off again on Air Force One (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Salon, 9/11/2001; 2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: 147th Fighter Wing, George W. Bush, Barksdale Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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