Tuesday, September 10, 2013

9/11 Reflections

In remembrance of September 11, 2001, some of Union Institute & University's California-area first responders share their thoughts about the day, and how their career fields have changed after 9/11.

Tim Martin, Union Institute & University
Tim Martin is a police officer for Merced Community College District Police Department in California and he is also a current student in Union Institute and University’s criminal justice management program. Tim has been a law enforcement officer for more than 20 years and he is a veteran of the United States Coast Guard.

It has been twelve years since September 11, 2001, when terrorists coordinated attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon. These are my thought and memories of the fateful day.

At that time, I was employed as a Deputy Marshal for the County of Merced in California. I went to work that day with a heavy heart after being awakened in the morning to the news of what had happened and what was occurring throughout our country. My thoughts were of my fellow law enforcement officers and firefighters who were dealing with the worst possible situation they had probably ever encountered in their careers. And, little did I know of the enormous loss of professional first responders who had already made the ultimate sacrifice.

The realization of those events as they unfolded became evident to me when I was loading equipment into my patrol vehicle. It was during that moment I heard an aircraft that I identified as an F-16 fighter jet streaking across the sky and heading west. What caught my attention was that I could see that the aircraft was armed with ordinance. I remember thinking to myself “I can’t believe this is happening.” I also wondered where the pilot and his aircraft were going and what dangers lay ahead for him.

The events of September 11 have strengthened public safety. Communities are better prepared with specialized training and equipment but even with this, there is still one important factor—the dedicated professionals who do their jobs every day in their communities. They are just like the professionals who rushed into the twin towers and the Pentagon. They knew the risks but did their jobs as true professionals, as well as true Americans. Many of them sacrificed their own lives so that others could live. Only a great country such as ours can produce such professionalism.

Today we reflect upon those professional first responders and the sacrifices they made on that tragic day; our thoughts and prayers go out to their love ones. They will always be remembered as heroes. God Bless them and god bless the United States of America.

Sergeant Major Richard M. Burth
Sergeant Major Richard M. Burth earned his B.S. in emergency services management from Union Institute & University in 2013. He is currently the Operations Sergeants Major of the 185th Military Police Battalion as well as the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the joint task force Domestic Support-Counterdrug. He has deployed on numerous occasions in support of natural disasters throughout the U.S. as well as the first Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom (CONUS and OCONUS), and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a civilian, he is employed as an anti-terrorism specialist.

The California National Guard (CNG) has been responding and protecting the citizens of California for over 160 years, but after 9/11 the CNG realized the need to refocus their efforts on emergency preparedness, response, and coordination with every level of government. The CNG began developing, improving, and enforcing standardized operational plans (SOP) and trained personnel to be proficient in military and civilian operational planning methods. SOP’s were built to incorporate standardized emergency management system (SEMS), national incident management system (NIMS), the national response framework (NRF,) and the joint military operations planning doctrine. When Major General David S. Baldwin was appointed as the California National Guard's Adjutant General, he directed that the top mission and responsibility would be to rapidly respond to state emergencies with a robust, coordinated force that would be drilled and prepared for the situations it faced. He also directed that, in addition to working with our local first-responders, the CNG would also focus on enhancing coordination with its active duty partners, bringing CNG commanders closer to their U.S. Northern Command counterparts.

I found myself fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time due to multiple deployments after 9/11 fighting the Global War on Terrorism, the expiration of my P.O.S.T. certifications, and my service in the California National Guard. For my entire adult life I had focused on my education and serving in the law enforcement field, but due to some financial hardship after obtaining my dream job, I had to resign my position as a Del Norte County Deputy Sheriff and apply elsewhere when the events of 9/11 occurred. I was employed by the CNG’s Joint Counterdrug Task Force as well as a Platoon Sergeant in a military police company in the CNG. I deployed immediately after the events of that tragic day. I spent a year at Ft. Lewis, Washington as well as a year in Iraq. During that period, my California P.O.S.T certificate expired. I was also approached by the CNG and offered the opportunity to assist with the establishment of a Federal Anti-Terrorism Assessment team, later known as Full Spectrum Integrated Vulnerability Assessment team (F.S.I.V.A.) as well as the Critical Infrastructure Protection-Mission Assurance Assessment team (CIP-MAA). I conducted anti-terrorism assessments using the two different methodologies for approximately four years with a team of seven people.

During that period with the F.S.I.V.A. team I also assisted with the initial development of the current CNG-Disaster Response Plan. I was promoted and assigned as the First Sergeant of a military police company that was the initial Quick Response Force (QRF) for the State of California. I was deployed again to Afghanistan for another year. However, because of my training and experience with the two different Department of Defense methodologies I earned a position with the California Emergency Management Agency (CAL-EMA) within the Critical Infrastructure Protection Division upon my return. I was also assigned to the CNG-Joint Force Headquarters, Joint Operation Center (JOC) as the Operations Sergeants Major. I gained more experience and training within the State JOC managing large-scale responses for state emergencies and was able to obtain my degree in emergency services management from Union Institute & University.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved at the ground level in developing the capabilities to identify the threats, vulnerabilities, and hazards to the state as well as the emergency response plans to address them. I am currently on a military leave-of-absence from my CIP position with CAL-EMA and working for the joint task force Domestic Support-Counterdrug, a program that provides assets and resources to secure California’s portion of the southwest border. Domestic Support-Counterdrug also fights the war on drug production and transportation within the State of California.

Union Institute & University
Brett Schneider has nearly 18 years of experience working as an emergency medical technician and he has served as a full-time police officer in Northern California for the last seven years. Brett recently earned his bachelor’s degree in emergency services management at Union Institute and University's Sacramento campus. He plans to continue his studies, applying for Union’s new Master of Science in Organizational Leadership program that begins in January.

I can vividly remember where I was and what I was doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had just started my shift as an EMT and had arrived at my station in Colfax, California. My partner and I turned on the news and observed the events that have since changed the way emergency services personnel live and work. Between calls, we watched and waited to see the extent of the damage and the impact on our lives. In the years following those events, I went back to school, changed professions and I am now a police officer. I can’t say I made this change as a result of 9/11, but those events strengthened my desire to work in law enforcement.

The events of 9/11 brought new roles and responsibilities to all emergency responders nationwide. The threats are different for each agency based on their area of operation as well as the potential threats in and around those locations. Working in a semi-rural community, the idea of vehicles carrying large amounts of farming chemicals was not something I would have noticed before 9/11. Now it not only raises my suspicion, but I along with many other officers carry a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) response kit as part of our daily equipment.

Overall, my work hasn't changed nearly as much as many other officer's jobs have. Each of us has accepted a new normal—from the way we board aircraft or ships, to the level of security at major sporting events—each person’s life has changed as a result of 9/11, not just emergency responders. 

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