I don't do this very often (blog about non-video game topics) but felt it was necessary today. Last year on the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001, I walked out to the communications center watch floor I supervised where ten of my sailors were on duty. It was fairly early...probably about 7:00 to 7:30, but they had already been to work for a couple of hours, having relieved the previous section that had the midwatch. The facility is manned 24/7, all year round and the sailors...my sailors...were there like they always are supporting the submarine fleet. Their ages and ranks varied, from seasoned veterans who had been in a decade or more, to some that were very young, fresh out of school and barely old enough to vote (and some not even old enough to purchase alcohol). I huddled them together to remind them you never know when disaster can occur, cautioned them to be extra vigilant since our adversaries will often attack on the anniversary of a major event and then I went around the ranks asking each sailor where they were on September 11, 2001. A few remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing, but I was surprised at how many of them barely had any recollection of the event because they were so young - kids really...like 8 years old and not fully understanding or able to comprehend the magnitude of the event. It caused me to reflect on that day and where I was...how it affected me.

I woke to the phone ringing...my wife rolled over an answered it. I could tell it was early because it was still pitch black outside. I heard her talking in a concerned tone...confused even. I was only slightly awake and only heard bits and pieces of the conversation.

A plane flew into the building.

World Trade Center.


I remember lying there thinking, "The Pentagon is nowhere near the World Trade Center, how can a plane have hit them both?" She got up and went downstairs and I slowly drug myself out of bed to see what was going on. By the time I got downstairs and was watching the news, the other plane flew into the second World Trade Center. I can't even describe the emotions I felt watching the news and I still get choked up over it when I think about it today. I was stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI at the time, and because of the time zone differences it was still like 2:30 AM. About 30 minutes later the phone rang and it was work telling me the Auxiliary Security Force had been mobilized and I needed to report ASAP.

Back then, I was a mid-level enlisted guy on shore duty and had volunteered for and recently finished the Auxiliary Security Force (ASF) Academy. I had always been interested in law enforcement and would only have to support ASF one training day a month otherwise I would just do my normal job. The ASF was a contingency force or backup for the base police in the event something major happened and they didn't have the manpower to respond to the event - things like hostile attack, natural disasters, and distinguished visitors visiting the base. I had graduated from the academy two weeks earlier; had my first official "training day" a week prior to September 11, 2001. Two days before September 11, 2001 I took some leave (vacation) time and now I had just been recalled and mobilized. There were some sailors in ASF who did their full one year obligation who were never activated, even for peacetime reasons.

I grabbed all my gear and an overnight bag, had no idea how long I would be gone...kissed my wife and told her I'd call when I could. The 30 minute drive from home to the base where I worked was completely empty. A ghost town, like the whole world had stopped. I drove up to the gate and told the sentry I was ASF and had been mobilized. I was searched more thoroughly than I had ever been searched before, which included an exhaustive vehicle search. I finally made it to the temporary command post which was inside an old hangar. I was issued riot gear, a sidearm and shotgun and sent with a fellow ASF member to guard a fuel depot out in the middle of nowhere.

It was nearly 12 hours later before our reliefs arrived. We had been out there without food or water...and no bathroom facilities, although that was easy enough to remedy since we were in such an isolated area. We had no radio or television and didn't really know what was going on. It took a few days before we could go home and shower...and a few more days before the chaos was reigned in a bit and organization started taking over. I was still guarding the fuel depot or other key locations... or sometimes I would stand sentry at the gates. We were eating MREs and standing 12-14 hours watches without a relief. I got quite proficient at urinating in Gatorade bottles because there were times when that's all we had.

Despite the arduous hours and working conditions and food (MREs aren't all that bad), none of us complained. There was no grumbling. It's the only time in my whole career I saw the Defense Condition (DEFCON) escalate to the level it did. Ships and submarines were sortied and most every command recalled their staff and rotated them around the clock. It would literally take hours for cars to get into the base because initially, everybody was searched, including their vehicles. The understanding and support from those impeded by the extra security measures was phenomenal. We never sustained such a massive blow like that before, and people knew and appreciated the steps that were taken to ensure their safety. This went on for a few months and eventually I was promoted to Platoon Leader, since most of the others couldn't seem to manage people or write a watchbill. As Platoon Leader, I was in charge of a pretty large force, making sure they were at their post; they were getting fed; and were relieved after standing their watch. After another month or so, the ASF was finally disbanded after having been relieved by a reserve unit that had been called up to take over Force Protection efforts.

I didn't do anything heroic and didn't even see anything all that exciting...but that day and the period following forever changed me and who I am today. It changed my outlook on life and redefined my values and spiritual compass. It reshaped my interpretation of the Navy's Core Values - Honor, Courage and Commitment. It reminded me of the importance of life and making the most out of the time you have. It reaffirmed my love of this country and how when it matters most, we can set aside our political, spiritual and cultural differences to demonstrate we are the land of the free and home of the brave.

Never forget.