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Voices of 9/11 : Ray Bradley

  • Published
  • By Raymond Bradley
  • 90th Missile Wing Inspector General

Where was I on September 11, 2001?

My current office is approximately 2,092 meters from where I was at the exact moment the planes flew into the World Trade Center. Missile Security Control was located in the basement of building 152 right behind the Security Forces Group building. It was just another day down at Missile Security Control. My buddy Timmy and I were working taking your typical phone calls. Launch Facility (LF) checks going on, alarm activations etc… Suddenly, Timmy and I get a phone call from one of the Flight Security Controllers out in the field. He said “are you watching the news?” Of course we weren’t but he said “you need to be.” We turned on the TV and saw one of the World Trade Center Towers had smoke billowing from it. A few minutes later, we watch as the second tower is struck. Timmy and I look at each other and both say holy (words that cannot be used in this publication) we are under attack. This is when things got crazy. We get a phone call and USSTRATCOM had placed the entire Department of Defense into real world Force Protection Condition Charlie. About 5 minutes later we were placed into Force Protection Condition Delta. I had never been in real world Bravo before much less Delta. Eight years in and I never expected to be attacked on our home soil. Thank goodness for checklist because Timmy and I had never done anything like this. We shut the missile field down. Maintenance stopped, LF checks stopped everything stopped. The base was closed down. Nobody got on the base, LF or Missile Alert Facility and nobody left.

I remember my wife, who worked at the Child Development Center (CDC) at the time, calling me to ask what was going on. She told me about having to put blankets up on the windows and they weren’t allowed to take the kids outside. She told me how they were finding out how many diapers were needed, how much food was left. They didn’t know when they would be able to close the CDC and how they were going to care and feed the children. I remember telling her everything was going to be ok, praying that I wasn’t lying to her. This started 32 straight days of work without a day off. None of us complained. In fact, we were angry that some dirt bags would to this to us, America, the greatest country in the world. We all wanted to deploy and go kick some Taliban butt.

The next few weeks were tough. I had two young kids who had to go to the CDC and my wife had to work there because she was deemed mission essential for parents who worked like I did. The gates were a mess. I had to remove two car seats every time I came through the gate whether my kids were in them or not. Can you imagine searching every vehicle that entered the installation? We did that for more than a month. Now if people have to sit at the gate for 10 minutes during retreat or an alarm activation, they complain.

The funny thing is this brought out the best in people. It was truly amazing to see. The civilians that lived out in our missile field were so helpful. They let us know when there was a parked car on the side of the road “only” 3 miles away from a launch facility. Turns out that was a couple of teenagers having some fun, and probably a little embarrassed when the local Police Department showed up and tapped on the foggy windows. It also changed how we did business and turned us into the truly expeditionary force we are now.

Air Force Security Forces and LRS Airmen were outside the wire doing convoys when former ACC/CCC CMSgt (Retired) Rick Parson’s convoy was attacked and he received a Purple Heart in Afghanistan. We took the fight to the enemy. We went into Iraq and a few years later I had my first deployment. It was awesome! I got to experience what indirect fire was every day. They called Balad Air Base Mortaritaville because of the number of mortar and rocket attacks it received and boy did it lived up to the name. I remember a few days before am due to leave, I am up at our squadron checking on my flight home. There is a huge explosion that shakes the building I am in. The housing area we sleep in is right behind the building. My two SSgts and I run out to see what we can do to help. I expect that there is going to be mass chaos in said housing area. I don’t have gear on, I am not armed just running to help. Oddly enough, my best friend George is still on duty and chews our butt for running to help. He knows I am about to leave. I imagine now, he didn’t want tell my wife I died because I was stupid. When he tells the story he says that “Ray and his two lackeys are running full speed with no gear on during a mortar attack to save the day.” We were dumb, no question, but this is what we did. We ran toward the sound of explosions to protect personnel and resources.   

September 11, 2001 changed me. I was always proud to be an American and to serve in the Air Force but now it means so much more. As I aged in my Air Force career, what kept me up at night was the fear that I had not done enough to ensure the Airmen I was fortunate enough to lead were better prepared than I was to take the fight to the enemy if another event like this occurred.