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Profile: US Army Crisis Action Team
US Army Crisis Action Team was a participant or observer in the following events:
Peter Chiarelli. [Source: US Army]Army officers plan an exercise for the Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon based around the scenario of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, which they intend to run during the week following September 11. The officer who is in charge of preparing the exercise is Major General Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli took over as the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization around early to mid-August this year. In this position, he is in charge of current operations in the Army Operations Center (AOC)—the Army’s “command and control center,” according to Chiarelli—located in the basement of the Pentagon. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Soldiers, 9/2004; Army News Service, 8/5/2008]
New Army Director Plans to Run Crisis Team Exercise - Chiarelli will later recall how the plans for the exercise come about. He will tell an interviewer that in some of the briefings he received when learning about his new post, he was told “that the Crisis Action Team had not stood up, except for an exercise, in about 10 years in any great role.” Therefore, after beginning in the post, he “planned to do an exercise for the Crisis Action Team.” Around the same time, the Personnel Contingency Cell, which is one of the CAT’s support teams, has been directed to put together a new mass casualty standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Army.
New Operating Procedure Has Scenario of Plane Hitting WTC - About a week before 9/11, Raymond Robinson Jr., the chief of operations for the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, and two other officers come to brief Chiarelli on their new SOP. Chiarelli will recall, “The real amazing thing of that SOP is that the scenario was an aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center.” Chiarelli tells the officers, “Hey, not only is this a good SOP and a good plan, but at the same time, to really make this good, what we need to do is exercise it.” Therefore, as he will later recall, “[W]e decided to integrate a scenario like that into my first CAT exercise.” The scenario of a plane crashing into the WTC would be used “to drive this exercise” that Chiarelli is planning to run. Chiarelli will not say what type of aircraft is envisaged hitting the WTC in the scenario, nor specify whether it would have been a hijacked plane or one that crashed into the WTC accidentally.
Exercise Scheduled for September 17 or September 13 - The exact date on which the CAT exercise is set to take place is unclear. Chiarelli will say he has his “folks design it for me on the 17th of September.” [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 95-97] However, Army Center of Military History historian Stephen Lofgren will mention, while interviewing Chiarelli’s deputy, Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, that the exercise is scheduled to take place “a couple of days” after September 11, meaning September 13. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/12/2002] The exercise is presumably canceled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. The CAT, whose members are set to participate in it, will be activated on September 11 in response to the attacks on the WTC, so as to “respond to the contingency in New York if requested by state and local officials” (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 134]
The Army Operations Center at the Pentagon. [Source: Soldiers]The Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon is activated in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. It is activated on the orders of Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization.
General Instructed Colleague to Activate Crisis Team - At around 9:00 a.m., while he was preparing to go to a scheduled meeting, Chiarelli was called by Major General Julian Burns, deputy chief of staff for operations of the US Army Forces Command. Burns asked him if he had seen what had happened at the WTC on the news. Chiarelli looked up at the muted television in his office and then, after turning up the volume, watched the coverage of the crash at the WTC on CNN. He also called to his office Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Stramara, his chief of operations, who is responsible for the CAT. When Stramara arrived, Chiarelli told him, “We need to look at standing up the CAT because I believe we’ve got ourselves a possibility of a mass casualty [incident].” Although Chiarelli was uncertain whether what happened at the WTC had been a terrorist attack, he told Stramara: “Kevin, it’s time to activate the CAT. Get it set up.”
General Said Pentagon Had to Be a Potential Target - As Stramara was about to leave the room, the two men saw the TV coverage of the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Realizing this was a terrorist attack, Chiarelli pointed out, “If there are other aircraft up there that have been hijacked or if there are other aircraft getting ready to do this, this building [i.e. the Pentagon] has got to be a target.” He asked Stramara, “Who has responsibility for this building?” Stramara responded: “I don’t know. I will check, but first I’ll stand up the CAT.” [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 95-97]
Crisis Team Assembles in Army's 'Command and Control Center' - The CAT, according to author Robert Rossow, is “an organization of subject matter experts from throughout the Army staff who assemble in times of emergency in a special area within the AOC”—the Army Operations Center. [Rossow, 2003, pp. 64] The AOC is located in the basement of the Pentagon, inside a bunker reinforced by steel and concrete 60 feet below the parking lot, and is equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment, as well as television sets for monitoring news coverage. Chiarelli will describe it as “the Army’s command and control center.” [Washington Post, 8/25/1995; Soldiers, 9/2004] It is “the place that people will migrate” to during an emergency, according to Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, the Army’s deputy director of operations, readiness, and mobilization. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/12/2002]
Crisis Team Members Are Summoned to Operations Center - When the CAT is activated, according to Rossow, its members “are called to the AOC to man their battle stations.” [Rossow, 2003, pp. 64] A piece of equipment called a “dialogic machine” sends out a telephonic alert to summon Army personnel to join the CAT. The machine automatically calls these people and gives them a prerecorded message, instructing them to report immediately to the CAT floor. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 100] Their mission, according to Rossow, is then “to provide information from their organizations and work issues within their particular area of expertise.” [Rossow, 2003, pp. 64]
Crisis Team Is Activated to Provide Assistance in New York - Chiarelli will subsequently be phoned by General Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, and will only head to the AOC to join the CAT after the call ends (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 98] He will tell Shinseki that he has activated the CAT to provide assistance in New York if requested by state and local officials, since he anticipates that the disaster at the WTC will require significant rescue, firefighting, and recovery efforts. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 134] The CAT will be “formally stood up” at 9:43 a.m., according to Rossow (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Rossow, 2003, pp. 66] It will become “a focal point for all Pentagon activities,” according to Lieutenant Colonel Richard Kotch, who is working in the AOC this morning. [St. Louis Jewish Light, 9/8/2011] Army officers are in fact currently preparing for a CAT exercise, which is scheduled to take place during the forthcoming week, based on the scenario of a plane crashing into the WTC (see (September 4, 2001)). [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 96-97]
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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