Web Content Display Web Content Display


The Army Lawyer


How 9/11 Changed the JAG Corps Forever



  PDF Version
(Credit: U.S. Army photo by SSG Laura Buchta)

Web Content Display Web Content Display

As the Regiment looks back, it is remarkable to think about how the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps was catapulted into the deep, complex, and intense legal environment that ensued as a result of the events that took place on 9/11—and why it matters. Overnight, the U.S. Army went from a peacetime to a wartime footing, and the nature of life in America changed. The JAG Corps changed. In addition to the firsthand experiences of judge advocates (JAs) that day, the JAG Corps faced an immediate challenge of advising senior officials on the legal basis for a military response; this highlighted the disparity between the existing rules and those needed in the months and years that followed. United States Army JAs played a critical role in shaping the legal framework after 9/11, much of which is still in place today, nearly twenty years later.

This article, however, is not about the mountain of legal issues and changes that followed as a result of the events of that day. Instead, it is intended to honor those members of the JAG Corps who bore direct witness to history—as it unfolded before them on 9/11—and recount their stories. This short article provides only a sampling of judge advocate accounts because, for obvious reasons, many do not wish to speak of the events of that day. History, however, is grateful to those who chose to share their memories so that their stories are not lost forever to time and space. This article is dedicated to the legacy of the women and men of the JAG Corps who sacrificed their blood, tears, and lives on that day, and every day since.

Everybody who is old enough to remember 9/11 has a story. They remember where they were. They remember the confusion, the disbelief, the unfathomable waste of life, the helplessness, and the anger. The effect of 9/11 on the JAG Corps could have been different, if not for the seemingly immaterial leadership decisions made a few short years and months before that day. For the Corps, and some of its individual members, providence interceded; the JAG Corps became more interwoven than ever into the decision-making fabric of the nation’s military—both on and off the battlefield.

Before 11 September 2001

In 1998, the Pentagon was due for a renovation.1 With five wedges and a three-year estimate to overhaul each wedge, it would take over a decade to renovate the entire building. To keep the Pentagon operational during renovation, one-fifth of the building’s occupants needed to relocate to temporary office space in and around the Pentagon. The vacated “wedge” of the Pentagon would then be sealed off for renovation and abatement. Each wedge would take three years to renovate. The Office of The Judge Advocate General (OTJAG) occupied a section of the first “wedge” set for renovation. That section was in the E ring, second floor, fourth corridor, facing westward and overlooking what was then the Marine Corps Headquarters and the Navy Annex.2 To the right, looking out the OTJAG windows, not far in the distance, was a clear view of Arlington National Cemetery. The Judge Advocate General (TJAG) and The Assistant Judge Advocate General’s (TAJAG)3 offices were in front of the Pentagon’s helicopter pad. From this suite, those assigned to OTJAG would watch helicopters land and take off. It was prime Pentagon property. In those days, the barriers around the Pentagon were hardly formidable. The stand-off was a great distance from the sidewalk and street, but only a six-foot iron fence stopped passersby from walking right up to the building and touching it on the west side, and no fence existed on the opposite side. The helicopter pad could also be seen from the sidewalk and roads toward the west.

In 1998, in addition to TJAG and TAJAG, the same Pentagon wedge also housed The Assistant Judge Advocate General for Military Law and Operations (MLO), the Regimental Sergeant Major (SGM), the Chief Warrant Officer of the Corps, and the majority of OTJAG operating divisions. They included the divisions of Administrative Law; Criminal Law; International and Operational Law; Standards of Conduct; Personnel, Plans, and Training Office; Contract Law; Labor Law; Technology; and Legal Assistance Policy. All totaled, approximately one hundred lawyers, paralegals, and staff occupied the offices located in OTJAG’s Pentagon space.4 The OTJAG Pentagon personnel were often referred to as the “brain trust” of the JAG Corps—many were hand-selected to leverage their talents and skills, as well as prepare them for future responsibilities and assignments.

Major General (MG) Walter B. Huffman was TJAG and MG John D. Altenburg was TAJAG.5 With the notification of the intended modernization effort, MG Huffman was directed to move OTJAG operations to a commercial office space nearby the Pentagon. Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5) Sharon Swartworth and the OTJAG administrative staff were charged with the mission to move OTJAG to Rosslyn, Virginia.6 After significant planning, JAG Corps leadership chose a building to temporarily house OTJAG. The move occurred swiftly and efficiently in May 1998.

Since MG Huffman’s primary clients—the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army—remained in the Pentagon, office space for him, his executive officer, and his clerical staff remained at the Pentagon. The operating divisions of OTJAG moved to the tenth and eleventh floors of an office complex located at 1777 North Kent Street, Rosslyn, Virginia, where they had a stunning bird’s eye view of Washington, D.C. At the Pentagon, MG Huffman settled into a dated interior basement office suite at 1E739, across the hall from the Army Inspector General’s office.7 While MG Huffman spent most of his time at the Pentagon, and MG Altenburg spent most of his time in Rosslyn, each General had offices at both locations. While the situation was not ideal, it was manageable, and the OTJAG team made it work.

Three years later, in July 2001, the Pentagon Building Manager notified MG Huffman that the renovations of the TJAG and TAJAG executive suites—which previously occupied “wedge 1” spaces—were complete and the OTJAG executive office could move into the space.8 The building manager told MG Huffman the decision had been made not to move the OTJAG operating divisions back into the Pentagon due to “efficiency and economy.” Instead, other functions already in the Pentagon would shift from a non-renovated wedge into a renovated wedge and this would happen continuously, until the whole building refurbishment was complete. This meant OTJAG would be the last group to move back into the Pentagon after the entire Pentagon renovation, perhaps a decade or more down the road. There was no certain timeline, other than no time soon.

Given the short remaining time he would serve as TJAG, MG Huffman turned down the opportunity to move the OTJAG executive offices back into the renovated Pentagon spaces without his operating divisions. He remained in the basement space and left future moving decisions to the incoming TJAG, MG Thomas J. Romig. On 11 September 2001, due to Congressional delay, MG Romig was still awaiting Senate confirmation to become TJAG and TJAG’s Pentagon office was still in the basement. Wedge 1, previously occupied by OTJAG, was ground zero on 9/11.9

11 September 2001

The World Trade Center

On 9/11, Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) William H. Pohlmann—an Army Reservist assigned to the 4th Legal Support Organization—was working on the seventy-ninth floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Shortly after 0846, LTC Pohlmann called his wife—Linda—to reassure her he was fine after the first plane hit the North Tower. He then spoke to his son, who called him from Wall Street to check on his father. As he hung up the phone with his son and called his wife back, terrorists flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower at 0903, killing him. Lieutenant Colonel Pohlmann was the first judge advocate killed during the War on Terrorism.

Pentagon City, Arlington, Virginia

As Americans gathered around televisions to watch the events of 9/11 unfold, Associate General Counsel, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and former Army JAG officer, Colonel (COL) (Ret.) Charlie Trant, was on the twelfth floor of the DEA building across the street from the Pentagon on Army-Navy Drive.

As the first plane hit the North Tower, he and his colleagues gathered to watch the television coverage in an exterior office facing the west side of the Pentagon. Colonel Trant, who was facing the interior, turned around when someone yelled, “Oh, my God.” His memory of the event is vivid, colorful, and horrific. He described the moment as taking place in slow motion. Due to the location of Ronald Reagan National Airport, it was common to see low flying aircraft near the Pentagon—but not in this area of the sky. He saw a large commercial airplane flying low in the sky with a flat trajectory and with no wheels down. He was standing on the twelfth floor. The plane seemed to be around the eighth-floor level. He saw the tail numbers. He read “American Airlines” clearly. Alongside his colleagues, he watched in disbelief as the plane glided in front of him, gently banked, hit a light post, and headed directly for the office space he once occupied as a staff officer in OTJAG. He watched the plane disappear into the building and create an explosion that shot hundreds of feet into the air above the Pentagon.

The Office of the Judge Advocate General

On 11 September 2001, at 0937, the only person inside the Pentagon OTJAG basement executive office spaces was the administrative assistant to TJAG, Ms. Lisa Hudson.10 That morning MG Altenburg—acting TJAG—began his day in Rosslyn by traveling to attend a meeting in the Pentagon with Lieutenant General (LTG) Thomas J. Plewes—Chief of the Army Reserve—in an office across from the OTJAG office space.11 Major General Altenburg had planned to fly from National Airport to Bogota, Columbia, for a conference after his meeting at the Pentagon. He left Rosslyn to go to the Pentagon after learning the first plane hit the World Trade Center, without thinking of the potential impact on his travel or world events. He had intended on returning to OTJAG in Rosslyn before departing for Columbia. After dropping him off, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Christopher M. Swires, MG Altenburg’s driver, waited in a government van outside the Pentagon for MG Altenburg to finish his meeting. At the time, there was a “VIP” parking lot at the edge of Corridor 6. From where SSG Swires sat in the parking lot, he could see down the length of the outside of the Pentagon to the helicopter pad.

As he waited, SSG Swires listened to President Bush on the radio saying terrorists had attacked the United States. He was looking down at the radio when he felt the van lurch forward. He looked up to see a portion of the Pentagon explode hundreds of feet in the air. Unsure of what caused the explosion and concerned about what to do next, SSG Swires immediately called OTJAG in Rosslyn seeking guidance as to whether he should return to Rosslyn. He spoke with CW5 Swartworth, the Chief Warrant Officer of the Corps. Because his phone call was near contemporaneous with the plane’s impact with the Pentagon, CW5 Swartworth did not understand why SSG Swires was calling to say he was still waiting for MG Altenburg. Staff Sergeant Swires explained the “top of the Pentagon exploded” and “it’s on fire.” Chief Swartworth informed the Assistant Executive Officer (AXO), LTC Charles “Chuck” Pede.12 Lieutenant Colonel Pede directed SSG Swires to wait for MG Altenburg. Outside the van, SSG Swires noticed a window from the airplane on the ground.

From their office building in Rosslyn, OTJAG personnel could see smoke rising from the Pentagon.13 There was an enormous sense of confusion and uncertainty as to what was happening and what to do next. There was a desire to get accountability of the JAs in and around the Pentagon, including MG Altenburg, but there was no way to communicate with the Pentagon.14 Cell phones were jammed, and landlines would not work because the operator switchboard, which was in the Pentagon, disabled the phones. There was no way to drive to the Pentagon because roads were closed. There were also rumors being passed that bombs had exploded at the State Department building and the U.S. Capitol.

Inside the Pentagon, engrossed in his meeting, MG Altenburg did not hear or feel the impact of the airplane. Though he heard a commotion in the hallway, he assumed it was something innocuous, like the annual Army-Navy game cheerleader ruckus that makes its way around the Pentagon, or perhaps a birthday celebration. As the noise became more disruptive, LTG Plewe’s Executive Officer (XO) came in the room and informed them a bomb may have gone off in the building. Major General Altenburg trusted the XO had a handle on the situation and would keep them informed if they needed to do anything. They continued with their meeting. They finally ended their meeting when the noise in the hallway became too loud and distracting.

Major General Altenburg, still unaware a plane had flown into the building, returned to the nearby Pentagon OTJAG executive office space to find the unlocked door wide open and no one there. He noticed dozens of unattended burn bags filled with sensitive information behind Ms. Hudson’s desk. He waited a few minutes for the Administrative Assistant to return to talk to her about leaving burn bags unattended. After a period of time, he wandered to the D ring to look for her and found every office empty. While he was in the D ring office area, a man came by and asked to use the office phone. Major General Altenburg acquiesced and overheard the man explaining to someone that a bomb went off inside the Pentagon and that he was leaving the building. After the man left, MG Altenburg locked the door and returned to the OTJAG office space where he waited a few more minutes, still unaware of the precise nature of events taking place around him in the Pentagon. When Ms. Hudson did not return, he locked the door and headed toward the exit to meet his driver, still thinking he was headed to Bogata later that day.

As MG Altenburg attempted to exit the Pentagon the same way that he’d entered, a security guard activated a metal curtain, thus locking off the exit. MG Altenburg asked him to open it, but the guard told him it could not be opened after it was activated due to security measures, as the security system required two separate compartmentalized keys to unlock the curtain. Unable to exit there, and armed with a resolve to get outside, MG Altenburg headed back inside the Pentagon to find another exit. Coming down the staircase in front of him, he saw the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the Vice CNO, two or three other admirals, and the remainder of the CNO’s entourage hurrying in the direction of another exit. He followed behind them and exited the Pentagon at the River Entrance, where he found thousands of people standing outside.

Determined to make his flight to Colombia that day, he made his way back around the building, clambering over barriers to get to where SSG Swires waited. From where SSG Swires sat in the vehicle, he had a direct view of the impact area. In a rush, MG Altenburg entered the vehicle and ordered SSG Swires to drive to Rosslyn. As they drove across the parking lot, they were stopped by the Secretary of Defense’s security force who attempted to commandeer the van to get to the Secretary of Defense. Major General Altenburg instead provided them a ride. Staff Sergeant Swires drove to the other side of the parking lot, dropped them off, and headed back to Rosslyn, driving over and around plane parts on their way. Since the expressways had become literal parking lots almost immediately after the attack, SSG Swires drove on the shoulder of the road; it took forty-five minutes to drive the two miles back to OTJAG in Rosslyn.

Joint Legal Assistance Office

Many Army JAs were in the Pentagon on 9/11. In the D ring, the Joint Legal Assistance Office (JLAO) adjoined OTJAG space. The JLAO Officer in Charge (OIC), Major (MAJ) Elizabeth Gossart, was seeing a client when she heard a loud sound and felt a massive change in air pressure in her office; she and her client ducked. This was the moment the plane struck the Pentagon.

Army paralegal Ms. Alva Foster opened the door and told MAJ Gossart and her client they needed to leave the building. The client quickly left, and MAJ Gossart swept the area for remaining personnel. She found MG Huffman’s secretary, Lisa Hudson, on the phone telling her mother a fire drill was underway in the Pentagon. Upon MAJ Gossart’s entrance, Ms. Hudson realized this was not a drill. The JLAO personnel left the building and met at a designated (pre 9/11) outdoor emergency location they called “the tree of life.”

Staff Sergeant Nathan Jones, the noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) for both OTJAG and JLAO, was at a meeting in the Pentagon with SGM Larry Strickland, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPER) SGM, when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. When word spread to those at the meeting that a second plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center, SGM Larry Strickland left the meeting and returned to his office in the Pentagon. The meeting ended when the plane hit the Pentagon. People dispersed, but SSG Jones rushed back to OTJAG to account for his people. When he arrived in the basement space, everyone was gone. He headed to the “tree of life” and found the JLAO personnel and Ms. Hudson. Later, SSG Jones would learn SGM Strickland was killed after leaving the meeting and returning to his DCSPER office.

There was mass confusion outside the Pentagon. Panicked uniformed personnel were retrieving their children from the Pentagon’s daycare center—some in strollers, some in cribs. Others were carried by daycare workers. Someone in uniform said, “This isn’t over; another plane is coming.” The legal assistance crew decided it would be best to walk the two-mile walking trail to OTJAG in Rosslyn to figure out what was happening. Information was scarce, and Rosslyn was a place to reassemble to figure out who needed to advise and assist Army officials and what to do next. Personnel at the Rosslyn office were uncertain as to what actually occurred at the Pentagon and were getting news from the television.

As they walked, the legal assistance personnel picked up stragglers and invited others to join them—some were JAs, some were not. Many left their keys, cars, money, and phones inside the Pentagon. Cell phone communication was near impossible because the networks were overwhelmed. Near Arlington Cemetery, a reporter tried to interview the group. They declined, and the reporter shouted “America loves and supports you.”

The Army General Counsel’s Office

On 9/11, MAJ Karen Fair was assigned as an Assistant Counsel to the Army General Counsel. Assigned there since June 2001, her portfolio included issues concerning military personnel and U.S. Army Reserve Affairs. That morning, she was preparing to attend a meeting at the DCSPER’s Office concerning the development of a computer program to aid Soldiers in being able to view their military benefits online. The night before, she had received an index card on her desk, personally from the DSCPER, specifically requesting her presence at the meeting.

At around 0835, she gathered her materials and headed out to attend the meeting. Major Fair did not want to arrive late to the meeting and knew she was expected to be there. Adding to her angst, SGM Lacey B. Ivory—her former platoon leader and colleague from her Army service prior to becoming a JA—was attending the meeting. Now serving as the Senior Enlisted Executive Assistant to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Army Manpower and Reserve Affairs, SGM Ivory would surely give her grief should she be late.

The Senior Deputy General Counsel and the then-Acting General Counsel, Mr. Thomas W. Taylor, stopped her as she headed for the door. She explained she was expected to be at the DSCPER meeting and had been personally requested to attend, but Mr. Taylor pointedly and tersely said, “I have my own meeting and you don’t need to go to that meeting. My meeting is more important.” Major Fair found this abnormal in that Mr. Taylor rarely, if ever, convened meetings, but she followed him across the hall into the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) conference room. Mr. Taylor began to explain to the group the dour message that it was anticipated there were going to be staff reductions across the Services at the Secretariat level and specifically in the Army Secretariat. As Mr. Taylor described the situation, someone knocked on the door and told Mr. Taylor he had a phone call. He said, “Tell them to call later, I am having a meeting.” A moment later, they knocked again saying it was important. This time, Mr. Taylor sent Assistant General Counsel Stephanie Barna to take the call in his stead. She quickly returned to report “planes hit the World Trade Center” and he needed to “come now.” The meeting adjourned.

Upset that the morning had been “wasted” and she had missed the DCSPER’s meeting, after being personally summoned to attend, Major Fair returned to her office. She was preparing for her next meeting when she heard a “deep thud” sound. She had a fleeting thought that perhaps a plane had hit the Pentagon, but then she associated the noise with the ongoing construction in the Pentagon.

Moments later, the OGC XO came into her office and urgently told her to “get the hell out of here.” She left the office, and in the hallway she saw people with ash on their heads. She wasn’t sure where to run, but she found an exit and—somehow—met the rest of her office outside the Pentagon on a grassy knoll near Interstate 495, overlooking the scene. She recalled the organized confusion that took place outside the Pentagon. Mr. Taylor and Ms. Barna ended up on that grassy knoll as well. Mr. Taylor got accountability of his personnel and kept them together.

An Air Force officer came by the crowd and directed them to run to another location because of another incoming plane. They took heed and headed into Pentagon City. Mr. Taylor found a way to make sure everyone got home that day. Eventually MAJ Fair, along with OGC administrative assistant Ms. Carrie Stacha, took the Springfield metro toward their homes on the last train in operation that day. Everyone in attendance at the DCSPER meeting MAJ Fair had missed earlier that day was killed in the Pentagon attack, including her mentor and friend, SGM Lacey.

Army Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison

In another part of the Pentagon, Army judge advocates COL Calvin “Cal” Lederer and LTC Everett Maynard were meeting in the Office of the Army Chief of Legislative Liaison (OCLL) when they felt a thud and a change in air pressure. Unaware of the World Trade Center attack, they heard voices in the D ring urging people to leave the building. They heeded the instruction and walked outside through the fifth corridor exit. As they stepped outside, they saw fire and smoke. At first, COL Lederer thought there had been an accident involving the Pentagon renovation; but, as he stepped outside and saw aircraft debris and heard witness comments, he realized there was an aircraft strike. Lieutenant Colonel William “Bill” Hudson, another judge advocate assigned to OCLL and present in the OCLL Pentagon office space, escorted two distraught female civilian employees away from the Pentagon after the attack.15

After exiting the building, COL Lederer joined dozens of others who fell into ad hoc rescue teams.16 Over the course of the afternoon, he watched the west facade of the Pentagon collapse and the fire spread.

The day after 9/11, COL Lederer returned to the Pentagon dressed in his battle dress uniform (BDU) instead of the normal suit a JA assigned to OCLL would be authorized to wear. The OCLL office space was destroyed by a combination of smoke and water damage. Throughout the day, the air smelled of smoke and burning debris as attempts were made to put out the remaining fire. The Chief of Legislative Liaison found OCLL personnel temporary cubicle space at the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. In the weeks following the attack, OCLL lawyers worked on emergency legislation and staffed the first Capitol Hill hearings on Military Commissions.17

Joint Chiefs of Staff—J5

Colonel Kenneth “Kenny” Lassus was assigned as an action officer in the Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J-5) Division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the moment of impact, COL Lassus was in a meeting in the C ring of the Pentagon, at the corner of corridors four and five. He was preparing with an Air Force employee and a Central Intelligence Agency agent for a trip to Pakistan the next day.18

When the plane hit the middle of corridor four, the explosion rocked the conference room, and the lights went out. Colonel Lassus and two civilians at the meeting, unaware of the cause of the explosion, felt their way through the darkness and smoke in the room into the corridor and, then, to the open-air five-acre center courtyard of the Pentagon. Colonel Lassus was so close to the explosion that the heat from the burning jet fuel melted his polyester class B uniform shirt to the skin of his back. After receiving medical care in the center courtyard, he was told to leave the area. With no keys or wallet, COL Lassus walked to OTJAG in Rosslyn, unaware that a second plane had hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center, and that the Towers had collapsed. He still had no idea what caused the explosion at the Pentagon.

Office of Legal Counsel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

At the moment of impact, COL Waldo “Chip” Brooks and I, then a Major, were in tiny back-corner cubicles in the Office of Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (OLC/CJCS).19 Minutes before impact, Navy Captain (CAPT) Jane Dalton, the Chairman’s Legal Advisor, called the CJCS legal team into her office to tell them a plane had flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center and the Joint Staff was on high alert. While she spoke, her staff watched the second airplane disappear into the South Tower and explode. Shocked by the immediate realization this was not an accident, CAPT Dalton headed to the National Military Command Center (NMCC) to consult with the Vice CJCS, Air Force General Richard Myers.20

I returned to my desk and called a fellow judge advocate, Captain (CPT) Wendy Daknis, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Captain Daknis was not aware of the World Trade Center strikes, but—as she spoke to me—she turned on the office television in her legal assistance office and listened. At 0937, as we talked, there was an explosion outside the OLC/CJSC office, which was followed by the building quaking. I told CPT Daknis, “The Pentagon has been hit,” and I had to hang up.

The OLC/CJCS personnel met in the legal front office. There was a strange loud alarm sounding in the Pentagon hallway. A female voice from the 1940s repeated over and over, “Please exit the building.” Three strange, high-pitched, long beeps followed the instructions; it was a holdover mechanism for emergencies from when the Pentagon was built.

Unclear as to where the danger was, the legal team decided to exit the Pentagon through an exit onto the large grassy field outside.21 We walked with a sea of people to the water’s edge of the tidal basin. Watching the smoke rise, Navy Commander Ralph Cory, who worked current operations in Chairman’s Legal Office said, “They pulled it off.”22 Commander Cory understood the cunning nature of the attacks and the specific danger that the Country’s enemy posed.

After a few minutes of standing outside, the group observed several military transport helicopters land on the field. We watched predesignated people exit the Pentagon, pile into the helicopters, and fly to faraway, presumably safer, locations to carry on the defense of the nation.23

Those remaining outside the Pentagon were confused about what to do next. As smoke rose from the opposite side of the building into the bluest of skies, someone yelled, “Another plane is incoming.” A Marine scurried along the water’s edge and directed people to lie on the ground and spread out “to make less of a target.” Most were compliant. Dressed in my Class B uniform, I sat on the ground. My back was against the concrete base of a flag pole located at the tidal basin’s edge, at the top of a stepped terrace leading down to the lagoon. This was the area that had been used as a landing dock until the late 1960s to ferry personnel between Bolling Air Force Base and the Pentagon. Several minutes later, someone announced that the second plane was not coming. Suddenly, a U.S. fighter jet screamed across the sky breaking the sound barrier. With that, the ground suddenly seemed safe.

As we stood outside trying to figure out what to do next, the NCOIC of the Chairman’s Legal Office, Sergeant First Class (SFC) Kevin Holmes appeared. He had been sent outside by CAPT Dalton to relay the message that CAPT Dalton wanted us inside the NMCC. He handed us face masks, as the building was on fire and filling with smoke. I did not have NMCC clearance, but I put on the mask and followed SFC Holmes.

SFC Holmes led the way into the Pentagon, through the smoke-filled corridors, and into the NMCC—past the guards who did not care to check clearances. They waived everyone in and closed the double-lock hatch doors that one might find on a Navy ship. The NMCC, a secret compartmentalized information facility, had its own internal air supply and was able to operate independently of the rest of the Pentagon. Not long after arriving, a worker entered the area and placed small carbon monoxide gauges around the work spaces.

The building was still burning, and there was a question as to whether the command and control of the U.S. military would shift to another location if the fire was not contained. For the next two years, to plan for and execute the response to the attack—as well as the follow-up operations in Iraq, the OLC/CJCS legal team staffed the NMCC in twelve-hour shifts, twenty-four hours a day.

Office of the Chief of Army Reserve

On the morning of 9/11, MAJ Michael J. Coughlin, the Deputy Legal Counsel for the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve (OCAR), was in Crystal City, a short distance from the Pentagon.24 After the attack, he walked to the Pentagon and spent the day helping firefighters and supporting evacuation efforts. Around 1930, as events slowed, MAJ Coughlin went home; but, he returned around 2300 when he heard on the news that as many as eight hundred people may have been killed inside the Pentagon. When he arrived, a SGM from the Old Guard approached him as the “senior officer” on the ground and told him two Marines needed his help.

The two Marines, Sergeant Nathaniel Penn and SSG Ronald Mix, had driven from Quantico at their commander’s orders with an American flag. They were tasked to hang the flag at the crash site. With the assistance of MAJ Coughlin, they hung the flag on the fire-crash rescue vehicle ordinarily stationed at the helicopter pad as part of aviation operations. The fire-crash rescue vehicle was inoperable after catching fire when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. They fashioned a makeshift flag pole with a metal pole that was part of the truck, some duct tape, and zip ties, and raised the small flag over the fire truck. This was the first U.S. flag to fly over the scene after the Pentagon attack.

Later that evening, MAJ Coughlin had the flag moved from the fire-crash truck to the top of the Pentagon at the crash site. Shortly after that, MAJ Coughlin suggested to staff on the ground that a large garrison flag should replace the small flag hanging from the Pentagon. The next day, the U.S. Army band sent over the largest flag in the Army inventory from Fort Myer. During President Bush’s visit on 12 September 2001, the Old Guard and firefighters unfurled the flag and hung it over the side of the Pentagon, replacing the smaller one. The hanging of the flag resulted in the iconic photograph often seen displayed in government offices.25

The Days That Followed

While the Department of Defense had a plan to carry on its military operations at an alternate location, if necessary, the Secretary of Defense—Donald H. Rumsfeld—made the decision to continue operations at the Pentagon as long as it was operationally feasible.26 The day after the attacks, employees reported for work at the Pentagon. On 12 September 2001, while the building was still burning, President George W. Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld toured the Pentagon, met with employees, and surveyed the damage. People lined the hallways to shake the President’s hand. The message was clear. The United States would come together and persevere. Indeed, the U.S. Government and its military operations continued forward.

On 12 September 2001, the international community joined forces in an act of solidarity with the United States. World leaders, political and religious representatives, and the international media joined together to condemn the attacks. The United Nations (UN) Security Council issued Resolution 1368 condemning the terrorists’ attacks and classifying the acts “like any act of international terrorism, as a threat to international peace and security.”27 That same day, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) invoked Article V of the treaty for the first time in history.28 They recognized the individual and collective right of self-defense, contained in Article 51 of the UN Charter, to aid the United States through armed force to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic Area and reaffirmed the need to combat, by all means, in accordance with the UN Charter, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.29 This invocation allowed other countries to come to the collective aid of the United States with armed force if necessary.30

International law shaped how commanders planned and conducted military operations. The United States asserted a legal basis for the use of force derived from both international law norms and the provisions in the UN Charter. The United States and its coalition partners also conducted operations in accordance with the international law of armed conflict. For the Army, international law included the application to military operations of international agreements, international customary practices, and the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations.31


The events of 9/11 sparked a collective war effort and produced global consciousness that changed the world, an impact that continues today. The international community quickly rallied to the aid of the United States, and the Global War on Terrorism began.

The growing involvement of JAs in all aspects of military operations since 9/11 has shaped countless policy and procedural developments in the Army. The JAG Corps became involved at all levels of command and control, in every phase of the war effort, and across the full spectrum of legal issues. Judge advocates interpreted laws that had not been construed outside academic settings since the Korean Conflict and World War II. There was a necessary shift in legal practice focus from criminal law to international and operational law.

The structure of the JAG Corps then changed to mirror the changes in the structure of the Army. Due to the nature of the conflict, the Army moved to a more decentralized, modular structure. The brigade combat team (BCT) became the focus, and JAs deployed with their BCTs. The educational model across the Army and JAG Corps changed to refocus Soldiers to fight an unconventional enemy. There was a change in the Army’s approach to conducting investigations (e.g., combat casualties, senior leader misconduct, sexual misconduct, and collateral deaths in combat).

Commanders utilized their lawyers increasingly for more than legal advice; JAs found themselves immersed in activities not traditionally considered “legal.” Commanders leveraged their JAs’ critical, objective, and analytical thought process to advise and assist them in undertakings ranging from public affairs to targeting. Technological changes affected the way and speed with which judge advocates provided legal advice. Based on legal issues surrounding the Global War on Terrorism, even the rank of The Judge Advocate General was eventually upgraded from two-star general to three-star general.

Since 9/11, this Nation has been immersed in conflicts around the world and at home; the fight to maintain freedom is continuous. The attacks, and our Nation’s response, have transformed our way of life and our day-to-day thinking. While new strength was forged at an immeasurable price over the last two decades, life as an Army JA has been irreversibly altered. One must anticipate and provide advice regarding the unimaginable. As we look to the future as a Corps, the events of 9/11 continue to remind us that countless threats to freedom still exist, and those threats can touch any of us at any time—at home and abroad. To honor the memory of those lost in this fight, we must continue to have the courage and resolve to preserve this great Nation as we face the unpredictable threats of the future. TAL


After thirty-six years of Army service, COL (Ret.) Campanella retired in April 2020. During active duty, she served as a judge advocate in a variety of duty positions.


1. The Pentagon is a five-sided office building and each side is known as a “wedge.” It is located in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and serves as the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. The concentric rings are designated from the center out as “A” through “E,” with additional “F” and “G” rings in the basement. The Pentagon contains 6,500,000 square feet of space, of which 3,700,000 square feet are offices. Approximately 26,000 military, civilian, and support personnel, work in the Pentagon. It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 mi of corridors. The central pentagonal plaza is five-acres large.

2. Completed in February 2006, now the location of the U.S. Air Force memorial.

3. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-181, § 543, 122 Stat. 3, 114 (2008) [hereinafter NDAA 2008). The designation “TAJAG” was changed to Deputy Judge Advocate General in 2008. NDAA 2008 amended sections 3037(a), 5148(b), and 8037(a) of Title 10 of the U.S. Code. The amendment to section 3037 changed the title of The Assistant Judge Advocate General (TAJAG) to Deputy Judge Advocate General (DJAG). Accordingly, there is no “The” in front of Deputy Judge Advocate General like there was when the term The Assistant Judge Advocate General (TJAG) was used. “The” was never officially used in front of “Assistant Judge Advocate General” in the previous version of 10 U.S.C. 3037. The Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps used “The” to differentiate the senior Assistant Judge Advocate General (Major General (MG) rank) from the other Assistant Judge Advocates General (Brigadier General (BG) rank). This practice became a matter of custom and tradition through the years. The first DJAG, MG Daniel Wright, chose not to use “The” in front of his title, thus setting the new custom and starting the new tradition. Before this amendment, the three services had different names for their number two JAG. Calling them the same title, “Deputy,” solved the confusion. Further, the Army, Navy, and Air Force headquarters staffs did not understand the difference between TJAG and TAJAG, particularly when each wore the same two-star rank. Resultantly, there was confusion as to who was TJAG or TAJAG. This issue was resolved once TJAG became a Lieutenant General (LTG) in 2008. Id.

4. Corridor 4 on the second floor from the C to the E rings.

5. Major General Huffman served as the 35th TJAG from 5 August 1997 until 30 September 2001. He is a veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Major General Altenburg, also a veteran of the Gulf Wars, served as the TAJAG 1997 to 2001.

6. In June 1999, Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CW5) Sharon Swartworth was selected as the Chief Warrant Officer of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, serving as the primary adviser to TJAG on all matters concerning legal administrators in the Army. On 7 November 2003, CW5 Swartworth and Sergeant Major (SGM) Cornell Gilmore, the Sergeant Major of the JAG Corps, were both killed in action in Iraq in a surface to air missile attack on a helicopter in which they were flying during an Article 6 visit with TJAG, MG Thomas Romig and Colonel Michelle “Mickey” Miller.

7. The Joint Legal Assistance Policy Division also remained in the Pentagon because it was joint service and it served the entire military Pentagon population. It was situated directly behind the TJAG suites in the basement.

8. Telephone interview with MG (Ret.) Huffman, U.S. Army (17 August 2018).

9. Lieutenant General (LTG) Timothy J. Maude, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPER), and his personnel, moved from the neighboring Pentagon space into the renovated space. On 11 September 2001, exactly sixty years after construction began on the building, LTG Maude was at a meeting in his new office area when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the western side of the building, killing 189 people, including LTG Maude. The DCSPER had moved with his staff only days before the attack. The 189 people included fifty-nine victims on the airplane, 125 victims in the building and the five terrorists on board the airplane.

10. On 9/11, OTJAG personnel assigned to the Pentagon included: Acting TJAG—MG John Altenburg; Executive Officer (XO)—Colonel (COL) Daniel F. McCallum; Pentagon Legal Assistance Office—Major (MAJ) Elizabeth A. Gossart and Staff Sergeant (SSG) Nathan Jones. Other Judge Advocates assigned to the Pentagon on 9/11 were: Department of Defense (DoD) Office of General Counsel—COL Carl M. Wagner; DoD Acquisition and Logistics—COL John L. Long; Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (OASD) Legislative Affairs, COL Fred T. Pribble; Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUOSD), Personnel and Readiness—COL Steven T. Strong; OSD Legislative Reference Service—Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Michael J. Fucci; Armed Forces Tax Council—LTC Thomas K. Emswiler; DoD Inspector General—MAJ Brenda J. Jardin; Office of Legal Counsel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—COL Waldo W. Brooks, LTC Kelly D. Wheaton, and MAJ Lorianne M. Campanella; Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (OCJCS), J-5, Weapons Technology Controls Division—COL Kenneth J. Lassus; Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, Office of General Counsel (OGC)—LTC Lara J. Rafael and LTC Karen L. Judkins; Defense Intelligence Agency, OGC—LTC Orin R. Hilmo Jr.; Army Office of General Counsel—COL Frank B. Ecker Jr., COL Sandra B. Stockel, LTC Mark J. Connor, LTC Lisa Anderson-Lloyd, LTC Richard J. Sprunck, LTC Paul D. Hancq, LTC Stephanie A. Barna, and MAJ Karen V. Fair; Office of Congressional Liaison—COL Calvin M. Lederer, LTC William A. Hudson Jr., and LTC Everett J. Maynard; Secretary of the Army Technology Management Office—LTC Michael J. McElligott; Army Inspector General—COL Ronald J. Buchholz and LTC Craig A. Meredith; Office of the Chief Attorney Headquarters Services—COL Brent P. Green, CPT Cheryl A. Patterson-Emery, Ms. Lynette R. Miserez, Mr. David Ridgely, and Mr. Robert Duecaster.

11. Major General Huffman retired in the summer of 2001 and MG Altenburg stayed in place as the acting TJAG, while MG Romig and MG Marchand awaited Senate confirmation. Office of The Judge Advocate General Personnel assigned to Rosslyn were Special Assistant to TJAG—BG Thomas S. Walker (Army National Guard (ARNG)); Assistant Executive Officer (AXO)—LTC Charles N. Pede; Administrative Office—Mr. Jose Robertson; Chief Warrant Officer of the Corps—CW5 Sharon T. Swartworth; WO1 Marybeth E. Fangman; SGM of the Corps—SGM Howard Metcalf; Sergeant First Class (SFC) Richard S. Walker; Personnel, Plans, and Training Office (PP&TO)—COL Clyde “Butch” J. Tate II, LTC Donald C. Lynde-Active Guard Reserve (AGR), LTC David N. Diner, MAJ Mike Mulligan, LTC Mark Cremin, LTC Sharon E. Riley, MAJ Tania M. Antone, MAJ George R. Smawley, Mr. Roger Buckner, and Mr. Bruce Fresh; Legal Technology Resources Office—LTC Joseph K. Lee Jr., CW3 John A. Lawson, Warrant Officer 1 (WO1) Philip G. Kraemer III, and Sergeant (SGT) Christopher M. Swires; Standards of Conduct Office—COL Garth K. Chandler, SSG Traci Johnson, LTC Diane Moore, Mr. Dean S. Eveland, Mr. Alfred H. Novotne, and Mr. Charles H. Criss; Special Assistants to TJAG for Guard and Reserve Affairs—COL Keith H. Hamack; Special Assistants to TJAG—COL John B. Hoffman and COL Paul Holden; Assistant Judge Advocate General for Military Law and Operations (MLO)—BG Thomas Romig, COL (P) Scott Black, Assistant Judge AJAG Installation Management Agency (IMA) MLO—BG Jeffery Arnold-United States Army Reserve (USAR); Contract Law Division—COL Roger D. Washington, Mr. Alfred E. Moreau, and Ms. Margaret K. Patterson; Administrative Law Division—COL Paul B. Anderson Jr., and LTC Jan W. Charvat; General Law Branch—LTC Robin N. Swope, MAJ Mike J. Henry, MAJ Robb W. Jefferson, MAJ Mike G. Seidel, MAJ Carrie F. Ricci-Smith, and CPT Antoinette Wright-McRae; Personnel Law Branch—LTC Shaun S. Shumake, MAJ Dale N. Johnson, MAJ Noel L. Woodward, MAJ Bradley E. Vanderau, MAJ Shannon M. Morningstar, and MAJ Thomas R. Serrano; Investigations Branch—LTC Sarah S. Green, MAJ John M. Bickers, MAJ Douglas M. Depeppe, MAJ Steven M. Mohlhenrich, CPT Charlie C. Choi, Mr. Eric C. Stamets, and MAJ Eugene J. Martin, Jr.; Criminal Law Division—COL Lawrence J. Morris, LTC William T. Barto, LTC Michael J. Klausner, MAJ Mark L. Johnson, and CPT Olivia N. Graham; International and Operational Law Division—COL David E. Graham, LTC Ronald W. Miller Jr., LTC Gregory T. Baldwin, MAJ Steven M. Walters, LTC Bradley P. Stai, LTC Michael E. Smith, and Mr. Hay W. Parks; Labor and Employment Law Division—Ms. Diane M. Nugent, LTC Charles B. Hernicz, CPT Leslie C. Smith II, CPT Christopher W. Haines, Mr. James N. Szymalak, Ms. Susan C. Henry, Mr. Robert M. Fano, Ms. Louise A. Schmidt, and Mr. Steven E. Engle; Legal Assistance Policy Division—COL George L. Hancock Jr., LTC Linda K. Webster, MAJ Janet H. Fenton, and Mr. Mike T. Meixell. Other members of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps stationed in the Military District of Washington, not listed herein and included within the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency (USALSA) and Litigation Center were: the USALSA Commander and Chief Judge, the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, the Office of the Clerk of Court, the Chief Trial Judge, Government Appellate Division, Defense Appellate Division, the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service, Contract Appeals Division, Litigation Division, Procurement Fraud Division, Environmental Law Division, and the Regulatory Law and Intellectual Property Divisions, all located at 901 North Stuart Street in Arlington, Virginia. 9/11 was also the first day of the 2001 LTC judge advocate (JA) selection board. The USALSA commander, BG Daniel Wright, was sitting as the President of the selection board at the Hoffman building when word of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers was passed to them. The board was cancelled that day, and reconvened and completed on Wednesday, 12 September 2001.

12. Lieutenant Colonel Pede would eventually go on to serve as the 40th Judge Advocate General of the Army.

13. Major George Smawley, the PP&TO Boards officer was in a vehicle headed back to OTJAG in Rosslyn after leaving the Pentagon when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Major Smawley made it back to Rosslyn in time to join the PP&TO team in LTC “Butch” Tate’s office as the second plane struck the other tower. Lieutenant Colonel Pede, also present in the room, made the prescient comment “it would be really easy to hit the Capitol or the Pentagon.”

14. Mrs. Ginger Chada, the legal secretary for the International Law Division, was immediately worried for her husband who worked for the Navy in the Pentagon. She would later find out SFC (Ret.) John J. Chada, her husband, was killed in the attack. He was a two-time Vietnam veteran and, after a long military career, he served both the Navy and the Army as an administrative assistant for the Department of Defense Information Management Support Center. 

15. Mr. Bernie Ingold, a retired JA working in Army Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison (OCLL), was on his way to the U.S. Capitol when the plane hit. He was at the Pentagon Mall Entrance getting into a shuttle when the driver said, “Look, a helicopter just crashed on Pentagon heliport.” With Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works nominee, Mr. Mike Parker in tow, Bernie Ingold continued to head to the Capitol for their courtesy call. Frustrated by the gridlock on the streets, they got out of the vehicle and walked to Capitol Hill, but they found the Capitol had been evacuated when they arrived. They spent the morning outside the Capitol with Members of Congress and staff waiting for the possibility of a fourth plane. They eventually walked back to the Pentagon. See E-mail from COL (Ret.) Bernie Ingold to author (13 May 2019) (on file with author).

16. Major Jeanette K. Stone, a JA who worked for the Army Environmental Law Division at USALSA, was attending a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) meeting in the Pentagon on 9/11. She did not normally work at the Pentagon and only went there for an hour-long weekly BRAC meeting from 0900-1000 every other Tuesday. Making her presence more unlikely, she shared this duty with a co-worker. After feeling the impact of the airplane, she evacuated the building with her colleagues through the Mall entrance. While watching the Pentagon burn from about 200 yards away, she joined other military personnel edging back toward the building, where she found an Army O-6 forming four-person litter teams. The litter teams, however, were never allowed to enter the building. Firefighters were battling the fire and smoke, and it was too dangerous. About an hour after impact, MAJ Stone watched the facade of the building collapse. Looking back she recounted, “Rationally, I took their point—the building was structurally unsound, the fire was unmanageable, the smoke itself could be lethal, and we had no equipment—but emotionally...it was difficult to stand there and do nothing while people were dying. The experience was both surreal and numbing.” After this, she assisted other agencies with manual labor needs, such as off-loading tents, moving pallets of food and water, and setting up medical triage areas. When the Old Guard arrived, LTG John A. Van Alstyne released the ad hoc military helpers and thanked them not for what they did—but for what they were willing to do. Interview with MAJ Jeanette Stone with Center for Military History (10 October 2001).

17. A week after the attack, COL Lederer was in the Hart Senate Office Building when letters containing anthrax spores arrived. He was among the people tested and treated prophylactically for exposure to anthrax.

18. The trip was to deliver a message of sanctions for providing material to Libya and Iran that would advance their missile technology in violation of International laws.

19. Lieutenant Colonel Kelly Wheaton was also assigned to the Office of Legal Council/Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff (OLC/CJCS) on 9/11 but was not in the Pentagon. He flew from Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Dallas, Texas, that morning. Lieutenant Colonel Wheaton was at IAD at the same time the terrorists boarded American flight 77 to Los Angeles, the plane that left IAD at 0820 and crashed into the Pentagon at 0938. Lieutenant Colonel Wheaton was flying aboard another flight heading to Texas when planes in the air over the U.S. were grounded after the World Trade Center attacks occurred.

20. The Chairman, General Henry Hugh Shelton, was on a plane heading to a NATO meeting in Europe at the time.

21. In the aftermath of 9/11, renovations were made to change the landscape of the River entrance grounds, and create a setback which would lessen the effects of possible future attacks. It is no longer possible to walk this path without walking across an expressway.

22. At the time, two current operations lawyers in CJCS/LC worked inside a sensitive compartmented information facility inside the legal office. This was known as “The Bridge.”

23. Among those on the helicopters flown to an alternate command site were retired judge advocates, COL Daniel Del’ Orto and COL James Smiser from the Office of the Secretary of Defense General Counsel’s Office. Colonel Waldo Brooks, representing OLC/CJCS, instead drove to the alternate command site.

24. Interview with COL (Ret.) Michael J. Coughlin (Sept. 17, 2018).

25. Id.

26. Interview with COL (Ret.) Dan Del’ Orto (Sept. 12, 2018).

27. S.C. Res. 1368 (Sept. 12, 2001).

28. North Atlantic Treaty art. 5, Apr. 4, 1949, 63 Stat. 2241, 34 U.N.T.S. 243 [hereinafter NATO Treaty]. Article V of the NATO Treaty states:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith,

individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain security of the North Atlantic area. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken necessary measures to restore and maintain international peace and security.


29. U.N. Charter art. 51 [hereinafter U.N. Charter]. The U.N. Charter states:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in anyway affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.


30. See 1 Center for Law and Military Operations, Legal Lessons Learned From Afghanistan And Iraq, Major Combat Operations (11 September 2001—1 May 2003) ch. 2 (1 Aug. 2004).

31. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Field Manual 27-100, Legal Support to the Operational Army para. 3-6 (1 Mar. 2000). Within the Army, the practice of international law includes foreign law, comparative law, martial law, and domestic law affecting overseas intelligence, security assistance, counterdrug, and civil assistance activities. Id.