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Profile: Sheryl Atkins
Sheryl Atkins was a participant or observer in the following events:
The US Air Force liaison to the FAA arrives at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, but, according to her own later recollections, does not immediately join a teleconference that has been set up in response to the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; US Department of Transportation, 8/31/2006 ]
Military Liaisons at FAA Headquarters - Each of the four military services within the US Department of Defense (the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps) assigns an FAA liaison officer to represent its requirements to the director of air traffic. These four liaisons share office space on the fourth floor of FAA headquarters. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ] Colonel Sheryl Atkins is the Air Force liaison there. Air Force liaisons at the FAA regional offices all report to Atkins, and she reports to the Pentagon.
Atkins Arrives at FAA Headquarters - Atkins will later recall that she was on her way to work when the first plane hit the WTC at 8:46 a.m., and she arrives at FAA headquarters “probably five, 10 minutes after that.” Once there, she goes to her office, where everyone is gathered around the television. She will see the CNN coverage of the second plane hitting the WTC at 9:03 a.m., and then immediately begin “personnel accounting.” [9/11 Commission, 3/26/2004; US Department of Transportation, 8/31/2006 ]
Atkins Does Not Join Teleconference - According to a 2003 statement provided by the FAA, the FAA established a teleconference with several other agencies minutes after the first WTC tower was hit (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the Air Force liaison to the FAA (i.e. Atkins) “immediately” joined this. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] However, Atkins will say she only joins this teleconference after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon attack occurs (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/26/2004; US Department of Transportation, 8/31/2006 ]
Not Responsible for Reporting Hijackings - Atkins will tell the 9/11 Commission that she is not responsible for being a channel from the FAA to the military for hijack and/or fighter escort protocols. She will explain that her office is “a liaison military administrative office,” and therefore, if she is notified of a hijacking, this does not represent “procedural military notification.” 9/11 Commission staff members will confirm “that there is no indication in the FAA handbook for special military procedures that [Atkins’s] office has a role in the notification to the military of a hijack, or the request to the military for fighter asset support.” Atkins will recall that, on this morning, “no one at the FAA” says to her that she should initiate “notification for a military response and/or coordination with the FAA response to the attacks.” Instead, she is “involved with military administrative coordinating and facilitating… and not with direct assessment or response to the attacks.” [9/11 Commission, 3/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 4/19/2004]
No Other Military Liaisons Present - The three other military liaisons that share office space with Atkins at FAA headquarters are currently elsewhere, spread out around northern Virginia and Washington, DC. The Navy and Marine Corps liaisons will arrive at FAA headquarters at around 10:30 a.m.; the Army liaison will not arrive until the following day. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ]
Sabra Kaulia. [Source: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association]The US Air Force liaison to the FAA joins a teleconference that has been established by the FAA shortly after the time of the Pentagon attack, according to her own later recollections, although an FAA statement will claim she joined it significantly earlier. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 3/26/2004; US Department of Transportation, 8/31/2006 ]
Watches Television, Does Not Join Teleconference - The Air Force liaison, Colonel Sheryl Atkins, will recall that she arrived at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, around five to 10 minutes after the first attack in New York (see (Between 8:51 a.m. and 8:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and went to her fourth-floor office there. She will describe: “Everybody was there around the TV. We watched the events unfold. At first, we were kind of hanging back and saying, you know, ‘there’s something awful going on with the air traffic system.‘… But at a certain point, not too long after that, it became obvious that, you know, something really strange is going on.”
Heads to Situation Room - Shortly after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit, Atkins hears CNN reporting a bomb may have gone off at the Pentagon. She will recall that she then heads up to the 10th floor of the headquarters building along with Sabra Kaulia, the program director for air traffic airspace management, and goes to the air traffic situation room, where David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, is participating in a teleconference. [9/11 Commission, 3/26/2004; US Department of Transportation, 8/31/2006 ] According to a 2003 statement provided by the FAA, the FAA established this teleconference with several other agencies “[w]ithin minutes” of the first attack in New York (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Atkins will say she is then “in and out” of the air traffic situation room throughout the morning. She does not speak with any of the military representatives at the White House, but does work directly with Steve Nolte, the airspace manager at NORAD, and also communicates with Lieutenant Colonel Michael-Anne Cherry, who is at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, to exchange information. [9/11 Commission, 3/26/2004]
FAA Claims Atkins Joined Teleconference Earlier - In a 2003 statement it provides to the 9/11 Commission the FAA will say Atkins joined the teleconference significantly earlier than she claims. According to the statement, the “US Air Force liaison to the FAA [i.e. Atkins] immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge” that was set up minutes after the first attack in New York, “and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
Other Liaisons Arrive Later On - As well as Atkins, who represents the Air Force, liaisons representing the other three military services within the Department of Defense (the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps) work at FAA headquarters. However, Atkins is the only military liaison currently there. The Navy and Marine Corps liaisons will arrive at FAA headquarters at around 10:30 a.m. and join Atkins on the building’s 10th floor, from where they help establish and maintain critical communications channels between the Defense Department and the FAA. The Army liaison will not arrive at FAA headquarters until the following day. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ; 9/11 Commission, 3/26/2004]
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