The following blog was posted by Cmdr. Glynn Smith on behalf of Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp.
This post from Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp leads a series of posts that highlight the Coast Guard response on Sept. 11, 2001, and how our service has evolved over the past decade as the nation remembers and honors those lost in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., on that now infamous day.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people were killed by terrorists who hijacked four commercial jets and crashed them into the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon and, only because of the heroic efforts of several passengers, a Pennsylvania field. First and foremost, this is a day to pause, reflect and honor those who were lost, including more than 400 first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice while attempting to rescue their fellow citizens, as well as the thousands of service members who have selflessly given their lives in the overseas contingency operations that have followed. We will never forget them. Their sacrifice only strengthens the commitment of every member of the Coast Guard to serve.
While the events of 9/11 were tragic, the Coast Guard takes great pride in its response that day. Immediately following the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, junior personnel from New York City, though they were witnessing the unfathomable, instinctively responded. They were able to meet this challenge by drawing upon the leadership, training and culture passed down by over two centuries of Coast Guardsmen. They also leveraged our strong maritime partnerships. When they put out the call for all boats to respond to Lower Manhattan, hundreds of merchant mariners piloting tug boats, ferries and every other type of watercraft formed a boatlift that safely evacuated 500,000 people in just nine hours – an amazing, heroic and largely unknown feat.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard rapidly swung into action. Our versatile cutter fleet was repositioned from offshore to inshore and served as command and control platforms in our ports. Reserve and auxiliary forces reported for duty – many even before they were called – and civilian staff members worked tirelessly to support these enhanced operations. Our culture of adaptability, agility and empowering our people to act, combined with our multi-mission vessels and aircraft allowed us to quickly shift focus and confront this new threat.
Looking back, it is amazing to see how the Coast Guard and our Nation has transformed since 9/11. Almost half of our current active duty members joined the service post-9/11. Just fourteen months later, on Nov. 25, 2002, the Department of Homeland Security – our new department – was established. Our response also proved the value of the integrated field units and we have made it the model for how we deliver services to the public via our Coast Guard Sectors around the country. We have greatly enhanced our ability to monitor activity on the water to detect potential threats through surveillance tools, increased vessel and aircraft patrols, partnerships with governmental and private entities and membership in the intelligence community.
Coast Guard capabilities have also vastly evolved. We now have teams of highly trained, deployable specialized forces to protect our ports and respond to the full range of maritime threats. We continue to recapitalize our fleet with new aircraft and cutters outfitted with advanced sensors that are fully interoperable with both DHS components and Department of Defense assets. We have also constructed a layered maritime defense strategy of shore-based, maritime patrol and overseas inspection forces.
However, we must never forget that what made the Coast Guard strong on 9/11, and what continues to make us strong today, is our people. I am proud to lead a talented and dedicated force whose vigilance ensures our homeland, ports and waterways are safe and secure. Their dedication to duty keeps the Coast Guard Always Ready – Semper Paratus to serve this great nation.
Throughout the week, the Compass blog will be featuring stories and imagery on our 9/11 response and the evolution of our service in the decade since. I encourage you to visit and learn more about this formative day in our history and how we continue to honor those who were lost.
Adm. Bob Papp