20 years later, unit members recall 9-11 response

  • Published
  • By Capt. Susan Penning
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing

Twenty years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, 193rd Special Operations Wing members - who were serving at the time - recall their responses. 

Chief Master Sgt. Joel Wagner, 193rd Air Operations Group Superintendent – “At the time, I was a drill-status staff sergeant with the 112th Air Operations Squadron, and I worked full-time as a corrections officer at Rockview Prison. I remember being glued to the TV that day. The next day I got a phone call from a personnelist telling me to make sure I was prepared and available. Shortly after that, I was asked to come in and process security clearance paperwork for our folks who were being mobilized to the Northeast Air Defense Sector (now Eastern Air Defense Sector) in Rome, N.Y. I was serving as a Security Forces troop then. My dad, who was an Army Guard E-7 at the time, deployed soon after that. He’s one of the few Vietnam and Iraq veterans I know. My mom was afraid we would both have to go. Fortunately, while he was gone, I was able to help mom out.” 

Senior Master Sgt. Shaun Hege, 193rd Equipment Maintenance Superintendent - “At the time, I was transitioning from active duty to the Air National Guard. I was in the recruiting process of joining the 193rd SOW. I was working full time in civilian aviation maintenance. Tuesday’s were one of my day’s off from work. I was woken up from a phone call telling me to turn the TV on.  I was glued to the TV the rest of the day and the following days trying to process the different thoughts and emotions of that tragic day. Ten days after September 11th I enlisted in the 193rd SOW starting my duty and support of my Nation’s new call.”

Master Sgt. William Doublowsky, 193rd AOG Unit Training Manager – “I was the unit training manager for the squadron at the time. We were in the old building’s chow hall. I couldn’t believe what was going on. I remember feeling like we had to do something; I wanted to contribute more. I ended up going to Northeast Air Defense Sector. I think it was a supply billet, and I worked in administration and supply. We just did whatever was needed. I remember heightened security everywhere and recruiting was up. A lot of people wanted to join the military after that.”

Col. Aaron Vance, 193rd AOG Air Operations Center Director – “I was a major at the time and a technician. The 112th AOS was transitioning from tactical radar to an air operations center. That day, I remember thinking it was this beautiful, clear day, and I was confused as to how a controller could let that happen to an aircraft. Then the second plane hit and the thought of pilot/controller error shifted to a terrorist threat. Guidance started coming in from headquarters. We went to limited and tight entry control points. There wasn’t an aircraft in the sky. It was eerily quiet. More taskings came down. Recruiting was insane. Folks who had retired or left came back to serve. It was a chaotic time, but it was also a time when the country was unified.”

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Hagen, 193rd Force Support Squadron Senior Enlisted Leader - “ I was in the Interservice Vehicle Maintenance Course at Port Hueneme, California at the time. We were having breakfast at our hotel prior to going to class when the first plane struck the tower. A classmate with me, who was from New York City, thought that it was a plane booked through a tourism company to see the popular sites. When we watched the second plane hit, we knew it was time to get to base. The line getting in was very long, and once on we were later told that the base is being secured, no one on, no one off. We finally got out around 2200, and after that we could no longer travel in uniform. When I returned to my unit from school, the ops tempo was ten-fold. On 9-11, our jets were the first scrambled out of Langley AFB, VA.  With an air-to-air mission, they were continually performing patrols 24/7, which required an increase in support. A large contingent from the unit also went to secure the airports in the State. I have never seen patriotism to this day like it was on 9-12.”

Col. Brian Lehew, 193rd AOG commander – “I was a captain with the 112th AOS at the time and a technician. I was sitting in my office and my super – Ralph Myers – said to turn on the TV. The first plane had hit. After the second plane hit, we understood it was no accident. Vance and I were tasked to stay here at night to provide security. Then I got a phone call from a Reservist I knew who worked at the (Federal Aviation Administration). The FAA needed to coordinate with the Northeast Air Defense Sector. Shortly after that, all commercial air space was shut down and the military had control of CONUS air space. Our unit was available because we were between missions but still fully qualified on our previous one. So many of us were tapped for Rome, N.Y. I was there for about 90 days, than on to the Southeast Air Defense Sector and other places. There was a lot of innovation going on at the time as we worked to combat this new threat from within the United States. Things evolved rapidly. The flexibility was tremendous. That event changed my whole career.”