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Profile: Paul Worcester
Paul Worcester was a participant or observer in the following events:
Paul Worcester. [Source: Paul Blackmore / Cape Cod Times]Senior commanders at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, become aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center from television coverage, and one commander then orders the base’s battle staff to assemble. The commanders have just been in the first of the base’s regular Tuesday morning meetings, which ended at 8:55 a.m. They are taking a short break before the next meeting, which is scheduled for 9:00 a.m., and are apparently unaware that a plane has crashed into the WTC.
Wing Commander Sees Burning WTC on Television - One of those in the meeting was Lieutenant Colonel Paul Worcester, the logistics group commander of the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis. As Worcester walks past the break room he notices that everyone inside it is fixated on the television. He goes in to find what they are watching and gets his first sight of the coverage of the burning North Tower. Worcester finds it odd that a plane could have hit the WTC, and thinks to himself: “On such a clear day, planes don’t just go astray. That just doesn’t happen.” Although he is aware that the base’s two F-15s that are kept on alert have been scrambled in response to a suspected hijacking (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), he does not connect this with what he is seeing on television.
Commanders See Second Attack - Worcester is joined in the break room by more of the senior commanders. They watch as the live television coverage shows Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and all of them then realize that America is under attack. One commander immediately shouts out, “We need to go to battle staff!” The senior commanders disperse and head toward the adjacent operations building, where they will reconvene in the battle cab of the installation operations center (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). A voice sounds out over the base’s loudspeakers: “The commander has ordered the 102nd core battle staff to assemble. Please report to the operations building immediately.”
Unit Mobilizes for War - Subsequently, as author Lynn Spencer will describe: “Under the leadership of the [102nd Fighter] Wing commander, the various subordinate group commanders cross-brief on scramble activity, training flight issues, available munitions, personnel available to begin uploading more fighters to combat-ready status, security force increases, and more. In short, they begin to mobilize the wing for war, keeping NEADS [NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector] in the loop on their preparations.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 87-88, 153-154]
Base Learned of First Hijacking 20 Minutes Earlier - The 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which is based at Otis Air Base, is responsible for protecting the Northeast United States, including New York, Washington, and Boston. Its mission includes defending the region against terrorist attacks. [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] On a typical day, it has about a dozen pilots on duty. [Cape Cod Times, 9/15/2001] It is equipped with 18 F-15 fighter jets, two of which are kept on 24-hour alert, ready to be in the air within five minutes of being called upon. [Boston Globe, 9/15/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/21/2001] These were the two jets that launched at 8:46 a.m. in response to the hijacking of Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] The base was notified about this first hijacking shortly after 8:34 a.m. (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 27-28] Why the senior commanders did not initiate their crisis response at that time is unclear.
Commanders at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, begin taking decisive action following the second attack on the World Trade Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153-154] The commanders learned of the attacks in New York from watching the coverage on television. After the second WTC tower was hit, one of them had ordered the base’s battle staff to assemble (see (8:56 a.m.-9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 87-88]
Commanders Gather in Operations Center - The commanders now convene in the base’s operations building. As officers take their posts, the installation operations center (IOC) there comes to life. In the glass-enclosed battle cab that is at the core of the IOC, senior commanders gather around a large conference table, which overlooks the two main operations centers: these are the command post, from where the air war is coordinated, and the survival recovery center, which handles support functions such as security, food, and medical care.
Commanders Take Pre-Emptive Action - Senior commanders confer with intelligence officers who are with them in the battle cab, over what to do in response to the crisis. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Worcester, the logistics group commander of the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis, says, “We need to start doing some things preemptively.” Author Lynn Spencer will describe: “The Otis commanders decided to ‘lean forward’ in anticipation of what they might be called upon to do. But there has never been an air attack on America, and there is no protocol in place to tell them how to respond. They knew intuitively that they could not wait on guidance from the higher echelons of NORAD. This attack could easily expand, and they needed to be prepared.” The senior commanders quickly establish their agenda, which is to recall all the base’s training flights, and begin loading fuel and weapons onto all available fighter jets. According to Spencer, “The officers smoothly undertook the task of transitioning to a wartime posture.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153-154] A number of jets that are out on a training mission will be recalled to the base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155]
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