Retired senior executive remembers Sept. 11th
September 7, 2011
By Jim Flinn
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- On the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 10, 2001, command of AMCOM changed from Maj. Gen. Al Sullivan to Maj. Gen. Larry Dodgen, with all the appropriate recognition and farewells for the Sullivans, as he retired and entered civilian life. And we began bringing a new commanding general on board and welcoming the Dodgens. Maj. Gen. Dodgen and Leslie were moving here from his tour in the Pentagon, settling into the CG's quarters and beginning to meet his staff, the Redstone and Huntsville community.
The new boss was in the office early on his first duty day as commander, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. The first day was intended to be an easy get acquainted, orientation day -- meet staff, plan for a new aide-de-camp, meet his new secretary, new deputy, new chief of staff. We started in his office, talking about his style of leadership, what he expected, how he operated. It would only be a short time before we watched that leadership style in action. We continued to the conference room to meet the others and he began to share his expectations while in command and his enthusiasm in being back in an operating command that touched Soldiers so directly. Remember that he had commanded a Patriot battalion in combat during Operation Desert Storm and later the 69th ADA brigade in Germany, experience that prepared him for all that unfolded that morning.
Shortly, we were interrupted with a note that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. First impressions were that it might have been a private plane and was an accident. But within minutes, we were called out to come to watch live coverage, as the second plane impacted the South Tower, and the calls started coming in:
• From Mayor Loretta Spencer offering all assistance from the city
• From the governor with the same message
• And from news stations
• And from all over the Arsenal
• And also a call from Maj. Gen. (now retired) Sullivan, from Florida I think, saying that he was ready to come back and go to work!
The CG's first action was to meet with the Garrison commander Col. Brent Swart, others of us in the Command Group, and Public Affairs, to understand and initiate immediate actions to implement the highest security levels for Redstone, and to get the word out to everyone about steps being taken to assure their safety and security. The initial steps were basic -- button down the Arsenal, evacuate personnel who worked on the Arsenal, locate everyone and communicate.
Redstone had never gone to that high security level before, but the Garrison leadership did a great job. Over 25,000 cars to get off the Arsenal without every road becoming a parking lot, every vehicle that remained on the Arsenal inspected and accounted for, securing every gate with limited access to the Arsenal after that day, securing every building with standoff distances and concrete barriers, and on and on.
Working with every organization on the Arsenal to identify, locate and contact every employee away from Redstone, because we had people on travel, on vacation, at home. And all flights had been canceled, all airports closed. Every effort was made to get in touch and get them home.
The general was in a press conference with the mayor within a few hours, long before we really knew what had really happened in New York, in Washington, in Pennsylvania; connected with all the local, state and national police and emergency resources. All understood that Redstone was well-led and secure.
From that day we've learned so much: the resilience of our country and its defense community, no matter the threat; the closeness of our local community -- cities, county, state, businesses, military, civilian; the strength, courage, brilliance and selfless endurance of the people who work on Redstone, not to take care of themselves but to go to any length to care for and support the women and men out there defending our freedom.
Editor's note: Flinn, who retired in 2004 as the deputy commander of the Aviation and Missile Command and a member of the Senior Executive Service, and whose 35-year Army civilian career included numerous ordnance logistics assignments, was inducted in May into the Ordnance Hall of Fame.