NEWS | Sept. 11, 2021

Remembering 9/11

By Andrew Dickson, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Today we hold in remembrance those we lost in the attacks on September 11, 2001.  Beginning at 8:46 a.m., Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, and 17 minutes later, Flight 175 struck the south tower.  A third flight, Flight 77, hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.  Passengers of the fourth and final passenger airplane, Flight 93, learned about the deliberate attacks and would take back control of the plane, forcing it to impact in a field in western Pennsylvania.  The nation learned shortly after that these were terroristic attacks on Americans from 19 terrorists linked to al-Qaeda.  In total, 2,977 people were killed because of the hijackings.[1] 
 
As jarring as it is to hear those statistics twenty years later, hearing those numbers in real-time in 2001 was unimaginable.  So much so that Americans often remember and can easily recall where they were when they heard the news.  For many, 9/11 was an ordinary Tuesday morning.  Within the first hour of work, school, or any daily routine, Americans stood in awe over television screens and radio while the events were being broadcast in real-time.
 
Immediately following the attacks, the Department of Defense had two different situations.  First, the attack on the Pentagon left 125 personnel dead, with 106 more injured.  The Department of the Army lost 22 Soldiers, 47 Army civilians, and six contractors.[2]  The second reaction was how to respond to the attackers.  General Eric K. Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, immediately activated the Army Operations Center’s Crisis Action Team to begin the response efforts.  As most DOD personnel evacuated the Pentagon, the AOC remained staffed and carried on its mission to direct operations to lower levels.[3]
 
Back on the ground, Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry, aka the Old Guard, began recovering remains.  After properly rendering military honors to those lost, the bodies were turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigations for forensic evidence.[4]
 
State governments began to react in their own ways. 
 
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Allen Youngman recounted the events in an oral interview on how he was notified of the attacks. 
 
On Aug. 10, 2001, Youngman was sworn in as Kentucky’s 50th Adjutant General of the Kentucky National Guard. 
 
Prior to the attacks, Youngman’s attention was on maintaining combat focus for his troops. 
 
In a meeting with senior commanders and staff, he recalled saying to them, “’Guys, we’ll never see combat somewhere down the road.  Some of these folks, more junior folks, probably will.  And so how do we keep them ready in these intervening years?’  Those words came back to haunt me, obviously, about a month later.”[5]
 
On that crisp, clear Tuesday morning, Youngman was holding a commander’s staff meeting.  His secretary entered the room to notify him that a passenger plane just crashed into the north tower.  His first thought, like most people, was that an air traffic controller somewhere is out of a job.
 
Moments later, his secretary reentered, this time with a note.  He stopped his meeting and solemnly said, “Guys, I think this country is at war with somebody.”[6]
 
Youngman added, “I’ve got a gut reaction that this thing is going to be serious.  It’s going to probably involve all of us and all of our Soldiers.”
 
Youngman’s career in the Army prepared him for many situations; including both command experience and strategic.  He served in Vietnam as a commissioned officer, served in special forces units, and would serve in various Pentagon positions. 
 
The attack caught everyone by surprise.  However, through Youngman’s leadership, the Kentucky National Guard’s reaction to the terrorist attacks was quite different from any other DOD organization.  In a memorandum to Soldiers and Leaders of the Kentucky Army National Guard dated Sept. 12, 2001, Youngman, with support from Kentucky Governor Paul E. Patton, decided that all armories and units in the state remain at Force Protection Level Bravo instead of heightening to Delta.
 
There were three main reasons for his decision. 
 
First, Army regulation calls for Delta in the immediate area of an attack or a terroristic threat is made to a specific facility.  Through communications with the FBI, it was determined that there were no specific threats in the state.
 
Second, as an organization that serves their community, the people of Kentucky view the National Guard armories as safe-havens.  By establishing defensive perimeters and posting armed guards, adopting Delta would take away the idea to the citizens that they are no longer safe places.
 
Third, Governor Patton’s guidance was to maintain some semblance of normalcy to lower anxiety and to contribute to the healing process of the losses.[7]
 
This order, while not well-received by the National Guard Bureau, was also a policy that only the Kentucky adopted.  While every other state’s adjutant generals pushed their armories to Force Protection Delta, Kentucky remained at Bravo.[8]
 
Similarly, Kentucky’s National Guard was ready to provide armed guards at five airports across the Commonwealth.  In a call with President George W. Bush, Youngman received orders to have Guardsmen provide additional security to airports to promote safety and security keep people at ease during air travel.  According to Youngman, other states’ adjutant generals were hesitant to arm their troops with live ammo; Kentucky had a trained and skilled team that was ready to take over that operation.  Members from the state’s Joint Service Operations, who had conducted joint operations training with the Kentucky State Police, volunteered to meet the needs at the airports.[9]
 
This advanced skills training became the predecessor for advanced weapon training for all Kentucky Guardsmen in the future.
 
In the weeks after the attacks, President Bush started the mobilization process of over ten thousand Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers. Their jobs were primarily for homeland defense operations to guard sites attacked, airports, and local infrastructure.[10]  This operation became known as Operation Noble Eagle.
 
For Kentucky National Guard, Airmen and Soldiers volunteered to support the nation.  Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry was the first Kentucky Army National Guard unit to mobilize in support of Operation Noble Eagle with 129 Soldiers providing installation security and force protection at Fort Bragg, NC.  Two days later, Delta Company from the same battalion mobilized 107 Soldiers to the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Ky., for a similar mission.[11]
 
Throughout the next two years, other units would see rotations to Fort Knox, Fort Campbell, and the Air Guard facility in Louisville, Ky.
 
It was quickly identified that the terrorist group al-Qaeda was behind the attacks on 9/11. 
 
In the fall of 2001, military attacks in Afghanistan, the primary training grounds for the group, would begin under the name of Operation Enduring Freedom.  U.S. Armed Forces began operations in the southern parts of Uzbekistan, starting with Army Special Forces.[12]  From the beginning, Kentucky National Guardsmen were joining the fight.
 
Beginning in November of 2001, members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, 123rd Airlift Wing out of Louisville, Ky., would deploy in support of OEF.  One member, then Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller, a pararescueman, would be in a 17-hour battle on the hilltop of Takur Ghar.  This battle would later become known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge.  Miller’s Chinook helicopter took fire while preparing to land on a recovery mission.  It crashed after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.  The survivors of the crash then began setting up hasty defensive positions and recovering service members.  In the events that followed, Miller is credited with redistributing ammunition and providing medical aid to the wounded, all while under direct enemy fire. 
 
Miller’s citation credits him with saving the lives of ten service members and recovering the remains of seven killed in action.  In 2003, Miller was awarded the Silver Star, which was upgraded 15 years later to the Air Force Cross, the second-highest combat medal for valor.[13]
 
Over the next twenty years following the attacks on 9/11, the Kentucky National Guard supported operations in Afghanistan by sending a total of nearly 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen there.
 
Four Kentucky National Guard Soldiers were killed in action in support of OEF as a result of the 9/11 attacks:
Cpt. Clayton Adamkavicius, HHC 1/149th Infantry, April 20, 2006
Staff Sgt. Nicholas R. Carnes, Alpha Battery, 2/138th Field Artillery Brigade, April 26, 2007
Sgt. Daniel Wallace, Charlie Company, 201st Engineer Battalion, October 31, 2008
Sgt. Randy A. Sigley, 2123rd Transportation Company, April 18, 2010
 
Twenty years later, as operations in Afghanistan have come to an end, Kentucky National Guard is continuing to do their part, most recently in Operation Allies Refuge. 
 
According to Lt. Col. Dale Greer of the 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs, more than 40 members of the 123rd Contingency Response Group deployed in August 2021 to support the U.S. State Department and the DOD in evacuation of Afghan refugees in the United States.[14]  By supporting the operations, the Kentucky National Guard has ensured their commitment to vulnerable Afghans as they finalize their immigration status.
 
Today while we all take time throughout our day to remember the losses felt on American soil twenty years ago, also take the time reflect on the strength of our community.  Through the tragedy of loss also comes the strength of our nation and our state. 
 
Through outstanding leadership and exceptional bravery across the commonwealth, service members, first responders, and citizens answered the call to be a part of a bigger picture.  The last twenty years shows that we can come together and live up to our lineage as a people.
 
On this day, September 11th, 2021, we will never forget.
 
 
[1] https://www.911memorial.org/911-faqs
[2] Department of the Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 2001, page 55.
[3] Department of the Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 2001, page 56-57.
[4] Department of the Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 2001, page 57.
[5] Retired Army Maj. Gen. Allen Youngman Oral Interview, September 7, 2021.
[6] Retired Army Maj. Gen. Allen Youngman Oral Interview, September 7, 2021.
[7] Memorandum for Soldiers and Leaders of the Kentucky Army National Guard, Subject: Kentucky National Guard Threat Condition/Force Protection Level, September 12th, 2001.
[8] Retired Army Maj. Gen. Allen Youngman email to Lt. Col. Stephen Martin, September 7th, 2021.
[9] Retired Army Maj. Gen. Allen Youngman Oral Interview, September 7, 2021.
[10] Department of the Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 2001, page 58.
[11] Kentucky Department of Military Affairs Combined Annual Reports, Fiscal Years 2001-2003, page 5.
[12] Department of the Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 2002, page 29-30.
[13] https://www.afsoc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1065243/pararescueman-awarded-air-force-cross-for-valor-at-roberts-ridge/
[14] https://www.123aw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2763244/kentucky-air-guard-plays-key-role-in-afghan-evacuation/