Fort Bragg Soldiers Wait For Orders
Posted September 14, 2001 6:42 a.m. EDT
FORT BRAGG — After Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, the question on everyone's mind is when and where will the war on terrorism begin. Soldiers and their families at Fort Bragg are also anxiously waiting for orders.
Things at Fort Bragg may seem more relaxed on the outside Friday, but on the inside security is still very tight. Now three days after the attack, soldiers are starting to get their mind back on business. While they are getting used to rigorous training operations again, the real challenge for these men and women is keeping their minds focused.
"We care about what happened, but still maintain a sharp edge," said MSGT Gregory Tripp.
CH-47 helicopters carrying 32 Fort Bragg solders left for Washington, D.C. Thursday morning. The soldiers will be participating in humanitarian efforts at the Pentagon. The unit's soldiers may be deployed up to 30 days.
The same company participated of Hurricane Floyd and in Hurricane Mitch relief efforts in Honduras.
There is no word yet if Pope Air Force Base will be called to help with relief efforts in New York City. MSGT Jim McCormick says if airmen are called, it would only be for medical help.
"Our primary mission is the evacuation of casualties if the area hospitals up there get overwhelmed we could evacuate to another area," McCormick said.
Although Fort Bragg will not comment on its security status, sources say it has dropped its security down one level to Force Protection Charlie. That is still a heightened alert from its normal status.
Extra security at 10 main access points to Fort Bragg remains in effect. Military police and soldiers carrying M-4 rifles are standing guard, stopping all vehicles trying to enter post.
Only those with proper identification and Department of Defense decals are allowed into the installation. Suspicious vehicles are being pulled aside and thoroughly checked.
Traffic, which had been backed up for miles, was much improved Thursday and Friday. Some people say they waited as long as seven hours to get through the checkpoints.
Fayetteville police are asking drivers to avoid the areas of Reilly Road, Bragg Boulevard, All-American Freeway and Yadkin Road.
Pope Air Force Base confirms it has lowered its security level to Force Protection Charlie, and resumed normal flight operations Thursday.
The base remains on standby, waiting to receive word on when they will leave for New York. About 40 to 50 personnel made up of medical staff and other airmen will leave once they get the word and planes arrive to head north.
Col. Roger King, chief of public affairs for the 18th Airborne Corps, says a lot of different actions go into taking the highest level of force protection.
"There is a constant assessment that goes on whenever you have a situation like this to determine the level of threat that Fort Bragg itself may have and the response that we made to that," says King. "We have random measures that we take, we have periodic measures that we take and we may go back and forth on those just as a way of keeping things from developing a pattern. Because one of the most effective ways you have to combat terrorism is to not have patterns in the way you do business."
At the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, vehicles are parked in front of closed gates. Parking lots along Gruber Drive are closed to the public.
Medical personnel from Camp Lejeune's 26th Marine Expeditionary were on standby, ready to head to New York to help with the recovery efforts. That mission has been called off.
Two amphibious assault ships, the USS Bataan and USS Shreveport, were anchored off the North Carolina coast awaiting awaiting troops and equipment from the Marine base.
Military spokesmen said earlier they expected the Marines to head to New York to help with relief efforts.
The ships abruptly steamed back to the Norfolk Navy Base late Thursday.
Other Marine elements standing by included engineers who could help move rubble with heavy equipment.
If called to duty, the Marines and Navy planned to send 800 to 1,000 troops from Camp Lejeune and the 1,300 sailors aboard both ships, said an official.
Seymour Johnson AFB
At Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, the base is under Force Protection Level Charlie, which is just below the highest level of alert. It means that there is no specific known threat against Seymour Johnson AFB.
The base's jet fighters are all grounded and armed guards are checking out every vehicle at the front gate.
Seymour Johnson played a big part in the Gulf War, in part because its jets are so effective at night.
Airmen were not on emergency call before Tuesday's attack, but that could change anytime.