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9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001: Army’s Crisis Team at the Pentagon Is ‘Formally Stood Up’ and Responds to Attacks

John Keane.John Keane. [Source: US Army]The Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon is “formally stood up” and its members respond to the terrorist attacks. [Rossow, 2003, pp. 66; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 135; St. Louis Jewish Light, 9/8/2011] Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Stramara activated the CAT after the second hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, at 9:03 a.m., on the orders of Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 96-97] Chiarelli’s intention was, he said, “to respond to the contingency in New York if requested by state and local officials.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 134] The CAT is now “formally stood up,” according to author Robert Rossow, although exactly what this means is unstated.
Senior Officials Come to Operations Center - When the CAT is activated, its members assemble in the Army Operations Center (AOC) in the basement of the Pentagon. [Rossow, 2003, pp. 64, 66] Numerous senior officials now start arriving in the AOC. These include General John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army; Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, deputy director of operations, readiness, and mobilization; Major General Philip Kensinger, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and plans; and Thomas White, the secretary of the Army. More senior officers come to the AOC than would usually be the case in a crisis, according to Chiarelli, “because a large portion of the Army section of the building had been destroyed” in the attack on the Pentagon. “People had been forced out of their space,” he will later say, and “were looking for some place to go.” [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; US Army Center of Military History, 2/12/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 135; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 98-101; Fox News, 9/12/2011]
Operations Center Personnel Unaware that a Plane Hit the Pentagon - Chiarelli arrived at the AOC shortly before the Pentagon was hit (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and, he will recall, heard a “muffled noise” when the attack occurred, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 98-99] Colonel Henry Huntley, who also arrived at the AOC around the time of the Pentagon attack, will recall, “Alarms started going off and there was an announcement that an explosion had gone off in the building.” [Daily American, 7/8/2008] However, those in the AOC are apparently initially unaware that a plane has hit their building. Vaughn, who witnessed the attack from the road outside the Pentagon, calls Major George Sterling, the AOC commandant, and says to him, “You know that you’ve been hit by an airplane?” Sterling responds, “Is that what happened?” Vaughn will comment that “many people… didn’t find out for some time” that the Pentagon had been hit by an airplane. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/12/2002; Rossow, 2003, pp. 15-16; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 3-4]
Support Agency Commander Unaware that the US Is under Attack - Colonel Bruce Bachus, commander of the Command and Control Support Agency, who is responsible for keeping the AOC operating, arrived at the Pentagon around the time the attack there occurred and yet he is unaware of the crisis taking place in the US when he gets to the AOC. In the AOC, Dick Mansfield, deputy director of the Command and Control Support Agency, says to him: “We’ve been hit! The CAT has been stood up!” But Bachus appears to be puzzled. Mansfield therefore asks him, “Sir, do you know what’s going on?” Bachus says no and that he had not been listening to the radio—like he usually does—while he drove to work. He says he heard a loud sound while he was in the Pentagon’s A-E Drive, and saw people shouting and running down the corridors, but he’d had no idea what was going on. Mansfield therefore has to quickly brief him on the catastrophic events of the past hour. [Rossow, 2003, pp. 9, 68]
Crisis Team Assesses How Many Army Staffers Are Missing - The “first big task” for the CAT, according to Vaughn, is “to get a count on how many people were missing on the Army staff.” Chiarelli instructs Vaughn to focus on this assignment. Vaughn then announces on the CAT floor that he wants each section “to start that process of figuring out who was missing and who was not.” “For a long time, our number one priority was locating and identifying and taking care of… our soldiers and civilians,” Vaughn will say. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/12/2002] Lieutenant Colonel Richard Kotch, who is working in the AOC this morning, will recall that those in the operations center also “assured continuity of operations after the impact [i.e. the attack on the Pentagon].” [St. Louis Jewish Light, 9/8/2011]
Intelligence Officers Give Inaccurate Reports of Hijackings - Meanwhile, after he arrives at the AOC, Chiarelli receives reports from his intelligence officers informing him, inaccurately, about additional hijacked aircraft. He is told there are “a minimum of four aircraft that were hijacked and a possibility, at one time, [of] as high as seven.” [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 99]
Operations Center Has Sophisticated Equipment - The CAT, according to Soldiers magazine, “consists of a dedicated ‘hot’ desk with classified and unclassified computers, and secure telephones for 24 separate Army staff sections.” [Soldiers, 9/2004] The AOC, where its members assemble, is equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment and has television sets for monitoring news coverage. [Washington Post, 8/25/1995] A glassed-in balcony overlooks the main floor and four giant screens are on the wall above the computer workstations. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 99-100]
Watch Team Regularly Communicates with Government Agencies - AOC personnel usually work around the clock to keep senior Army leaders aware of issues and events around the world. A watch team monitors the world constantly and is ready to sound the alarm if a crisis erupts somewhere. The watch team also “directs hundreds of communications daily to the FBI, the State Department, the White House command center, local law enforcement agencies, and others,” according to Soldiers magazine. The AOC is equipped with an “emergency action console,” which is a switchboard with a sophisticated communications system that allows watch team members to contact, at the touch of a button, the White House, the secretary of defense’s office, and Army commands around the world. [Washington Post, 8/25/1995; Soldiers, 9/2004] The CAT will become “a focal point for all Pentagon activities” in response to the terrorist attacks, according to Kotch. [St. Louis Jewish Light, 9/8/2011] It will continue working around the clock in the aftermath of the attacks. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Bruce Bachus, George Sterling, Clyde A. Vaughn, Dick Mansfield, US Army Crisis Action Team, US Department of the Army, Richard A. Kotch, Henry Huntley, Thomas E. White, John Keane, Philip R. Kensinger Jr., Peter W. Chiarelli

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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