by Capt. Jared Scott
601st AOC Public Affairs
9/13/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- At
8:37 a.m. CST Sept. 11, a bell rang out, followed by a moment of
silence in front of the 601st Air and Space Operations Center here,
marking the time the American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the
western side of the Pentagon in 2001.
The 601st AOC, often referred to as America's AOC, held a ceremony in
front of its 9-11 memorial to honor those who lost their lives during
the tragic events of this day 12 years ago.
"It was a Tuesday that started out like any other September day, but
ended tragically ... ," said Col. Thomas Cucchi, 601st AOC commander.
"As I look back over those 12 years, I see a lot of changes, especially
in our air defense. This AOC that stands behind me and our Operation
Noble Eagle mission are direct results of the events of that day."
The ceremony began with both the Canadian and United States national
anthems, sung by Jennifer Bennett, wife of Master Sgt. Jason Bennett,
601st AOC first sergeant, followed by remarks from the AOC commander.
"We will start to usher in, for the first time, a group of high school
and college graduates that have very limited or no recollection of the
events in 2001," Cucchi said. "Five to nine years old at the time,
perhaps young enough to remember, but certainly not old enough to shape
their life. Their understanding of September 11th was likely acquired
through history books, media outlets or parents relaying their
experiences during that tragic Tuesday. It will be our responsibility to
relay the significance of that day to our newest service members and
provide a firsthand familiarity so as to enrich and capture a story that
brings more meaning to their acquired definition of 9-11."
Cucchi went on to talk about the 9-11 memorial.
"The twisted steel from the World Trade Center and slab of scorched
limestone from the damaged face of the Pentagon that lie in front of
this AOC serves as a somber reminder for those of us who work here. It
has been twelve years since the events of that day, but those memories
remain fresh in my mind, and we will not become complacent in our
The Continental U.S. NORAD Region commander, Lt. Gen. William Etter, followed up Cucchi's remarks with a few of his own.
"9-11 changed a lot of things, to include how America views the men and
women in uniform," Etter said. "We are the most respected profession in
the country, and with that, we owe the citizens of this country both the
performance and conduct that continues to earn that trust. You do that
The ceremony concluded with laying a dedicatory wreath in front of the
AOC's 9-11 memorial by Staff Sgt. Karla Rodriguez, a member of the 601st
AOC Color Guard.
"As a New Yorker present there on September 11, 2001, this memorial
means a lot to me," Rodriguez said. "It was a complete honor to be
selected to not only ring the bell, but to also present the wreath to
our memorial display with the proper respect it so deserves. No words or
actions can ever fully express the sadness I feel for the families
impacted, but I will do my best as an Air National Guard member to not
let that tragic day be in vain."
Operation Noble Eagle was named for the military response to the
terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The missions have been ongoing since the
attacks, serving to provide surveillance and control of North American
airspace. This remains a prime mission focus for the men and women of
North American Air Defense.
Since the attacks, Continental NORAD Region fighters have responded to
more than 5,000 possible air threats in the United States and flown more
than 62,500 sorties with the support of Airborne Warning and Control
System and air refueling aircraft.
The 601st AOC is responsible for detecting, deterring, defending and if
necessary, defeating any aviation threat to the citizens of the United
States and to U.S. critical infrastructure. The AOC is primarily manned
by the Florida Air National Guard's 101st Air and Space Operations