War on Terrorism

Friday, September 13, 2013

America's AOC observes 12th anniversary of 9-11

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 mission."

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 every day."

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 Group.

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