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Profile: Fort Belvoir
Fort Belvoir was a participant or observer in the following events:
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]
Walter Reed Army Medical Center. [Source: US Army]The Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in Washington, DC suffers a four-day power loss following an electrical transformer fire on August 27. Backup generators ensure patient care is minimally affected, but as a precaution 77 of the hospital’s roughly 100 patients are moved to other facilities until it regains full power. Most go to the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda. According to Capt. Tom Sizemore, the acting commander of the NNMC, precautionary measures are necessary due to the size of the patient transfer. So on August 28 he sets the hospital into a mass casualty condition. Usually such a condition is only set in response to a major incident with many seriously injured people. Sizemore says, “This most unfortunate opportunity has provided NNMC with a very special opportunity. We were able to exercise our response system, with real patients, but (thank God) not with patients involved in some mass disaster.” [Stripe, 8/31/2001; Bethesda Journal, 9/6/2001; Stripe, 9/6/2001; Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 146] Walter Reed is about six miles from the Pentagon, and its ambulance teams will respond to the attack there on September 11. Many believe that coping with the power failure helps prepare them for this. One member of staff later says, “A lot of the procedures that we used in the September 11 tragedy, we had just come out of this power loss where we had implemented a lot of what we did. We had good procedures in place that we had already just executed. It was really eerie.” [NurseWeek, 9/17/2001; Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 145-146] A similar incident also occurs around this time at DeWitt Army Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir, an army base roughly 12 miles south of the Pentagon. The details of this are unspecified. [Stripe, 9/20/2001] Ambulance teams from DeWitt will also be involved in the emergency response to the Pentagon attack. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. i]
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).
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]
Under the authority of the FBI, remains of 9/11 victims at the Pentagon are taken to a temporary morgue in the Pentagon’s north parking lot, where they are photographed, labeled, and then placed in refrigeration. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47; Quartermaster Professional Bulletin, 3/2005] They are then transported to Davison Army Airfield at nearby Fort Belvoir, and from there to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where there is a large mortuary created for use in wartime. FBI agents accompany the remains at all points during transportation. [American Forces Press Service, 9/15/2001; PBS, 9/21/2001; Soldiers, 10/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-55] About 250 people, including 50 medical examiners and 50 members of the FBI’s ‘disaster team,’ work at the mortuary to identify the remains. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001] Remains are first scanned for the presence of unexploded ordnance or metallic foreign bodies. FBI experts then collect trace evidence to find any chemicals from explosives, and also conduct fingerprint identifications. [Pentagram, 11/30/2001] Other techniques used include dental records and X-rays. Tissue samples are sent to an Armed Forces laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, for DNA analysis. [PBS, 9/21/2001] Identification is problematic because specimens are often unrecognizable body parts, and are nearly always mixed with debris composed of aircraft and building materials. [Harcke, Bifano, and Koeller, 4/2002] However, by the time Dover staff formally end their identification effort, on November 16, they have identified remains of 184 of the 189 people who died in the Pentagon or aboard Flight 77, including the five hijackers (see November 21, 2001). [Washington Post, 11/21/2001]
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