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Profile: Vigilant Guardian

 
  

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Vigilant Guardian actively participated in the following events:

 
  

(6:30 a.m.): NORAD on Alert for Emergency Exercises      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Dawne Deskins.
Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins and other day shift employees at NEADS start their workday. NORAD is conducting a weeklong, large-scale exercise called Vigilant Guardian. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Deskins is regional mission crew chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Vigilant Guardian is described as “an exercise that would pose an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide”; as a “simulated air war”; and as “an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States.” According to the 9/11 Commission, it “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” [Newhouse News, 1/25/02; Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 55 and 122; 9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/04, pp 458] Vigilant Guardian is described as being held annually, and is one of NORAD's four major annual exercises. [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 41; Code Names, by William M. Arkin, 1/05, pp 545; GlobalSecurity [.org] Vigilant Guardian page, 4/14/02] However, another report says it takes place semi-annually. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Accounts by participants vary on whether 9/11 was the second, third, or fourth day of the exercise. [Code One Magazine, 1/02; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/02] Vigilant Guardian is a command post exercise (CPX), and in at least some previous years was conducted in conjunction with Stratcom's Global Guardian exercise and a US Space Command exercise called Apollo Guardian. [Committee on Armed Services, undated; Code Names, by William M. Arkin, 1/05, pp 545; GlobalSecurity [.org] Vigilant Guardian page, 4/14/02] All of NORAD is participating in Vigilant Guardian on 9/11. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] At NEADS, most of the dozen or so staff on the operations floor have no idea what the exercise is going to entail and are ready for anything. [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/04] NORAD is also running a real-world operation named Operation Northern Vigilance. NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command is in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, “In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on September 11.” [Bergen Record, 12/5/03; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Colonel Robert Marr, in charge of NEADS, says, “We had the fighters with a little more gas on board. A few more weapons on board.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] However, Deskins and other NORAD officials later are initially confused about whether the 9/11 attacks are real or part of the exercise. There is a National Reconnaissance Office exercise planned to occur as well (see 9:00 a.m.), involving a scenario of an airplane as a flying weapon. [Associated Press, 8/21/02; UPI, 8/22/02]
People and organizations involved: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Dawne Deskins, Robert Marr, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Vigilant Guardian, Operation Northern Vigilance
          

(8:37 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Notifies NORAD; Timing Disputed      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Jeremy Powell.
According to the 9/11 Commission, Boston flight control contacts NEADS at this time. This is apparently the first successful notification to the military about the crisis. Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell, a member of the Air National Guard at NEADS, initially takes the call from Boston flight control. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Boston flight control says, “Hi. Boston [flight control], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed toward New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Boston answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” [BBC, 9/1/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Powell gives the phone to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. Deskins later says that initially she and “everybody” else at NEADS thinks the call is part of Vigilant Guardian. After the phone call, she has to clarify to everyone that it is not a drill. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, also says that when he hears of the hijacking at this time, “The first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?” [ABC News, 9/11/02] Deskins recalls, “I picked up the line and I identified myself to the Boston [flight] controller, and he said, we have a hijacked aircraft and I need to get you some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” However, the timing of this vital notification is in some dispute. Deskins herself claimed the call occurred at 8:31 a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another report later states, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” [ABC News, 9/14/02] FAA Administrator Jane Garvey later testifies that the FAA notified NORAD at 8:34 a.m. [New York Times, 12/30/03] NORAD on the other hand, originally claimed they were first notified at 8:40 a.m., and this was widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission's 2004 report. [Newsday, 9/10/02; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); BBC, 9/1/02; NORAD, 9/18/01] If the 8:37 a.m. time is accurate, then flight controllers failed to notify NORAD until approximately 13 minutes after the hijackers in the cockpit clearly stated that the plane had been hijacked at 8:24 a.m.; 17 minutes after the transponder signal was lost and the flight goes far off course; and 24 minutes after radio contact was lost at 8:13 a.m.
People and organizations involved: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Vigilant Guardian, Jane Garvey, Jeremy Powell, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston flight control, Dawne Deskins, Larry Arnold
          

9:28 a.m.: NORAD Possibly Holding ‘Live-Fly’ Training Exercise      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, around this time the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers tells him via video link: “We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise, but ... Otis [Air National Guard Base] has launched two birds toward New York.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 5] However, no other references have been found to this exercise, “Vigilant Warrior.” Considering that exercise terms are “normally an unclassified nickname,” [CJCSM, 4/23/98] this is perhaps a little odd. Could Richard Clarke have mistakenly been referring to the Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (6:30 a.m.)), which is taking place on 9/11? According to a later news report though, NORAD confirms that “it was running two mock drills on Sept. 11 at various radar sites and Command Centers in the United States and Canada,” one of these being Vigilant Guardian. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 12/5/03] If this is correct then there must be another NORAD exercise on 9/11. If not “Vigilant Warrior,” a possibility is that the exercise referred to by Richard Clarke is in fact “Amalgam Warrior,” which is a NORAD-sponsored, large-scale, live-fly air defense and air intercept field training exercise. Amalgam Warrior usually involves two or more NORAD regions and is held twice yearly, in the spring for the West Coast and in the autumn for the East Coast. [Airman, 1996; GlobalSecurity [.org], 4/14/02; Committee on Armed Services, 2000; Arkin, 2005, pp 254] Is it possible that in 2001 the East Coast Amalgam Warrior is being held earlier than usual (like Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m.)) and is taking place on 9/11? In support of this possibility is a 1997 Defense Department report that describes the Stratcom exercise Global Guardian, saying it “links with other exercise activities sponsored by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Unified Commands.” The exercises it links with are Crown Vigilance (an Air Combat Command exercise), Apollo Guardian (a US Space Command exercise), and—significantly—the NORAD exercises Vigilant Guardian and Amalgam Warrior. [GlobalSecurity [.org], 10/10/02; Defense Department, 5/97] Since in 2001, Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.)) is occurring the same time as Global Guardian, might Amalgam Warrior be as well? In his book Code Names, William Arkin says that Amalgam Warrior is “sometimes combined with Global Guardian.” [Arkin, 2005, pp 254] Amalgam Warrior tests such activities as tracking, surveillance, air interception, employing rules of engagement, attack assessment, electronic warfare, and counter-cruise-missile operations. A previous Amalgam Warrior in 1996 involved such situations as tracking unknown aircraft that had incorrectly filed their flight plans or wandered off course, in-flight emergencies, terrorist aircraft attacks, and large-scale bomber strike missions. Amalgam Warrior 98-1 was NORAD's largest ever exercise and involved six B-1B bombers being deployed to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to act as an enemy threat by infiltrating the aerial borders of North America. [Arkin, 2005, pp 254; Airman, 1/96; GlobalSecurity [.org], 4/14/02] Another Amalgam Warrior in fall 2000 similarly involved four B-1 bombers acting as enemy forces trying to invade Alaska, with NORAD going from tracking the unknown aircraft to sending up “alert” F-15s in response. [Eielson News Service, 10/27/00; Associated Press, 10/29/00] If either one (or both) of these exercises ending with the name “Warrior” is taking place on 9/11, this could be very significant, because the word “Warrior” indicates that the exercise is a Joint Chiefs of Staff-approved, Commander in Chief, NORAD-sponsored field training exercise. [NORAD, 8/25/89] Real planes would be pretending to be threats to the US and real fighters would be deployed to defend against them.
People and organizations involved: Ellington Air National Guard Base, Vigilant Guardian, Richard B. Myers, Amalgam Warrior, US Department of Defense, Richard A. Clarke, North American Aerospace Defense Command
          

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