The Army 's Vision and Strategy

How We Became

Guardians of the Nation's Capital

September 11, 2001

On Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (USAMDW) provided support to response and recovery efforts at the Pentagon. The lessons learned on that day, and the days that followed, would shape the command and its future as the core staff element of the Joint Force Headquarters – National Capital Region. USAMDW was there on 9/11 and continues to stand ready as Guardians of the Nation’s Capital.

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Fort Myer Military Community Fire Department

Fort Myer, Va.

Fort Myer Military Community Fire Department

Three civilians from the Fort Myer Military Community Fire Department were manning the Pentagon Heliport Fire Station on Sept. 11, 2001. Inside the fire station, Alan Wallace, Mark Skipper, and Dennis Young watched the television coverage of the World Trade Center attacks until Fort Myer Fire Chief Charlie Campbell telephoned and warned them to stay alert as Washington, D.C., could be a target.

Skipper and Wallace went outside to check on the new crash truck equipped with the special chemical foam used in fighting jet fuel fires. The two men stood next to the truck discussing the New York attacks when Wallace glanced up and saw the airplane. He yelled to Skipper to run for cover. Diving under a nearby vehicle, Wallace felt the blast and the explosion's enormous heat and pressure as Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon, just 20 feet from the corner of the fire station. Skipper heard a tremendous crash and saw the orange glow of a huge fireball bursting from the blast site and rising above the building.

As flames engulfed the building, Wallace jumped into the crash truck and started the engine, but it would not budge-the back end was ablaze and belching smoke. He radioed the fire department headquarters at Fort Myer that an airliner had hit the west side of the Pentagon, probably providing the first report of the exact crash location.

That radio call, from the inside of the burning truck, allowed Fort Myer crews to arrive around 9:42, minutes after the crash. As Wallace and Skipper salvaged what remained of their equipment and gear and Young emerged from the partially collapsed station house unharmed, they heard cries for help coming from inside the building and they ran towards the flaming building.


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911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company

Fort Belvoir, Va.

MDW Engineer Company

As the only technical rescue engineer company in the Army, the MDW Engineer Company was one of the first rescue units to respond during the attack on the Pentagon on 9⁄11 and spent more than two weeks conducting operations in the collapsed areas of the Pentagon. The MDW Engineer Company received the Army Superior Unit Award earned for its service.

The Army redesignated the MDW Engineer Company as the 911th United States Army Technical Rescue Engineer Company on Sept. 18, 2006.

The 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company remains the only technical rescue company in the Department of Defense. It specializes in Urban Search and Rescue. The 911th is stationed at Fort Belvoir and remains known for its response to The Pentagon following the September 11 attacks in 2001. The company is mine rescue and technical rescue certified and specializes in trench, structural collapse, ropes, and confined space disciplines.


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3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

Joint Base Myer - Henderson Hall, Va.

3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

On September 11, 2001, as Old Guard Soldiers were making final preparations to bring Spirit of America to Columbus, Ohio, the terrorist attack on the Pentagon required them to devote their full attention to assisting the recovery operation.

Old Guard Soldiers from nearby Fort Myer, Va., heard and witnessed the plane striking the Pentagon. The crash was also heard by Old Guard Soldiers at Fort McNair across the Potomac in Washington, D.C. Soldiers from both posts were prepared for immediate response and were among the first to arrive on the scene of the attack. They performed force protection duties, conducted search and rescue or recovery, and provided communications and medical support.


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The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own”

Joint Base Myer - Henderson Hall, Va.

The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own”

The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” assisted in the recovery efforts at the Pentagon, providing musical, technical and logistical support. In October 2001, the band performed a tribute to the people of New York City at The Lincoln Center and performed during a memorial service at Ground Zero.

The flag that was unfurled next to the damaged areas of the Pentagon was a garrison flag - the largest authorized for the military - provided by The U.S. Army Band.

The flag flew on the side of the building for the next month. Each night, workers illuminated it with floodlights. Members of A Company of the 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) took the flag down on Oct. 11.

The flag is soot-stained and ripped at one spot where it rubbed up against the building. It is now in the care of the U.S. Army’s Center of Military History.


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POST 9/11

After Sept. 11, 2001, military and civilian leaders recognized a need for strong cooperation and communication between federal, state and local units to prevent terror attacks and respond in times of emergency.. U.S. Northern Command was subsequently established, taking the lead of several Joint Task Forces throughout the U.S. charged with homeland security. The Joint Force Headquarters - National Capital Region was created for the sole purpose of preventing and responding to future terrorist attacks within the Washington metropolitan area.

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U.S. Northern Command

Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

U.S. Northern Command

U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) was established Oct. 1, 2002 to provide command and control of Department of Defense (DOD) homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities. USNORTHCOM defends America's homeland — protecting people, national power, and freedom of action.


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Joint Force Headquarters - National Capital Region

Fort Lesley J. McNair, D.C.

Joint Force Headquarters - National Capital Region

In September 2004, USNORTHCOM activated Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, based at Fort Lesley J. McNair to protect the District of Columbia and neighboring counties and cities from terrorist attacks, natural disasters and civil disturbances. As a Joint Task Force, the command draws together the existing resources of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and NORAD into a single point headquarters for planning, coordination and execution of the mission in the National Capital Region.


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U.S. Army Military District of Washington

Fort Lesley J. McNair, D.C.

U.S. Army Military District of Washington

As the Army Forces Component to, and core staff element of, the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, USAMDW provides executive, operational, ceremonial and musical support across a full spectrum of worldwide responsibilities to support the Nation’s leaders.


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