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Army Reservists on the Front Line From the First Day

By Lt. Col. Randy Pullen
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2001 – Army Reservists have been on the front lines of "the first war of the 21st century" since the morning of Sept. 11.

Although most of the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve, is a few blocks away from the Pentagon, the chief, deputy chief and command sergeant major of the Army Reserve themselves are in the building. A number of OCAR staff members were in the Pentagon that Tuesday morning on routine business, and the Army Reserve Forces Policy Council had convened there. Finally, Active Guard/Reserve status soldiers were at work, as were reservists who hold civilian jobs in the Pentagon.

When American Flight 77 hit the west side of the Pentagon, AGR Lieutenant Colonels Victor Correa and Isabelle Slifer, both assigned to the Army's Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, helped others escape the building. News accounts report that many survivors remember Correa's booming voice guiding them to safety through the blinding smoke.

AGR Lt. Col. Sean Kelly and a co-worker, Capt. Darrell Oliver, lifted a desk off of a secretary. Oliver then put the woman on his back and carried her out.

An AGR officer assigned to ODCSPER, Lt. Col. David Scales, is among the 124 Pentagon workers listed as unaccounted for.

As the Pentagon evacuated following the attack, many Army Reservists moved to where they could help.

Col. Malcolm B. Westcott, deputy chief of the Army Reserve, and Brig. Gen. John W. Weiss, commanding general of the 330th Medical Brigade at Fort Sheridan, Ill., went to an open-air emergency triage area set up near the Pentagon and started helping the injured.

Westcott is a former medic and holds the Expert Field Medical Badge. Weiss, in town for the policy council meeting, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Wisconsin and a transfusion medicine physician.

"I'm a medic first. I'm the DCAR second," Westcott later said.

Col. Ed Wakayama, a reserve Medical Service Corps officer on a one-year tour of duty with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, helped perform triage and administered IVs to those who were in shock and who had lost body fluids. He then turned to help the Red Cross in lining up blood donors.

AGR Capt. Calvin Wineland of OCAR Operations rushed from a computer class to check on his children at the Pentagon childcare center. His wife, AGR Maj. Desiree Wineland, beat him there from her office and had collected the kids.

Before the family could take off, Wineland was stopped and asked to take a badly burned soldier to the hospital. Wineland and passers-by unloaded the family vehicle and put the soldier in the back. A sailor on a motorcycle volunteered to escort the vehicle. After a mad dash to Georgetown Hospital in Washington, the sailor mentioned he'd somehow found his way though he'd never been there before.

Command Sgt. Maj. of the Army Reserve Alex Ray Lackey and his executive assistant, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Mantha, formed a litter team with an Army lieutenant general and a colonel. The fire from the burning airplane and reports of other airplanes in the area kept the litter teams back. They found other ways to support an army of firefighters and other rescue personnel that now descended on the Pentagon.

Many OCAR staffers joined the throng of Pentagon workers who gathered and offered to help. The police turned most everyone away, but some were allowed through, like Master Sgt. Jacqueline Gopie, a medic, and Lt. Col. Timon Oujiri, a legislative affairs officer and one-time mortuary assistant.

Maj. Michael Coughlin of the OCAR legal counsel's office became the senior Army representative at the on-site FBI Command Post and helped coordinate information. He later helped set up the temporary morgue.

While all these event were taking place at the Pentagon, an even greater tragedy unfolded in New York City. Army Reservists were at "Ground Zero," too. Among the thousands of workers in the World Trade Center and the hundreds of firefighters and rescue workers lost while trying to rescue them were a number of Army Reserve soldiers.

Hundreds of firefighters died when the twin towers collapsed while they were inside trying to evacuate the buildings. By Sept. 14, at least five were known to have been Army Reservists; the accounting was not complete then, however.

Many of the first to respond came from the South Manhattan District fire battalion. The battalion commander, Bill Blaich, is an Army Reserve colonel and an individual mobilization augmentee with the Military Traffic Management Command.

Days after the attack, when he was able to get to a computer and send an e-mail, he found himself explaining to his superiors at MTMC that he was unable to be activated for Reserve duty. "This week has been a horror," he wrote. "Lower Manhattan collapsed. I can't answer your request for 72-hour activation at this time. As soon as the situation stabilizes I will gladly toss my name into the ring.

"Regards to all and thanks for keeping me in your thoughts. A little prayer for the missing wouldn't hurt either. We're looking for over 350 firefighters alone."

His son, also a firefighter, was on the 25th floor of Tower 1 when it collapsed. Blaich called his wife when he found out his son had been found alive and gave her the one-word answer that meant their son was OK: "Yes!"

Blaich is a Vietnam veteran. An Army Reservist since 1972, he was called up for duty during the Gulf War and later for Haiti. Now he is a veteran of a new war.

Other Army Reservists saw the tragedy as it came toward them. Army Reservist Thomas Sullivan was on the 95th floor of the World Trade Center and happened to look out a window to see the first airliner headed right toward him. It hit higher up and he was able to escape the building.

Roshan Singh had just finished Army Reserve training earlier this year. He felt he had an obligation to his country while also pursuing his career goals to become an engineer. He and his sister, Khamla, both worked at the Windows on the World restaurant atop the north tower. Both have been missing since Sept. 11.

Retired Army Reserve Col. Rick Rescorla was security chief for trade center stock brokerage. The Vietnam combat veteran had been a hero during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and survivors report he was a hero this time, too, helping people to evacuate the building until, it seems, his luck ran out. He is among the missing.

Three days after the attacks, on Sept. 14, President Bush issued a partial mobilization order that could affect up to 10,000 Army National Guard and Reserve members.

Among the first commands to respond was the 77th Regional Support Command of Flushing, N.Y. Key to the 77th's quick reaction were a trained and functioning emergency operations center and responsive units. Hundreds of support items were appropriated and delivered in short order to the disaster recovery effort. A laundry and bath unit quickly set up to support the mortuary operation.

Eighty-five soldiers of the 311th Quartermaster Company (Mortuary Affairs) from Puerto Rico left home Sept. 14 and were in among the ruins of the Pentagon the next day helping to recover remains and prepare them for shipment to Dover Air Force Base, Del., for identification.

Other Army Reserve units currently supporting post-attack operations include:

o 4249th Military Police Company (Port Security), from Pocahontas, Iowa, 25 soldiers.

o 375th MP Detachment (Criminal Investigation Division), Columbus, Ohio, 20 soldiers.

o 366th MP Detachment (CID), Devens Reserve Force Training Area, Mass., 15 soldiers.

o 348th MP Detachment (CID), Fort Dix, N.J., 20 soldiers).

o 307th MP Co., New Kensington, Pa., 30 soldiers.

o 369th Engineer Detachment (Firefighters), Norristown, Pa., 10 soldiers.

o 5025th Garrison Support Unit, Fort Carson, Colo., 7 soldiers.

The 4249th is providing port security for military operations. The other police units are providing security services to essential government personnel and facilities. The Army Reserve has also been providing medical supplies, generators, cots and other equipment and supplies.

(Lt. Col. Randy Pullen is assigned to the Public Affairs and Liaison Directorate of the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve.)

 

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