Wednesday, September 12, 2001

America Attacked

Motorists entering Nimitz Gate at Pearl Harbor Naval Base
faced heightened security, including inspections, yesterday.

Restrictions high
on isle bases

Most civilian workers are told
to stay home again and
entry to bases is limited

By Gregg K. Kakesako and Christine Donnelly

For the first time since the Cuban Missile crisis warships patrolled the waters off the East and West Coasts and Hawaii guarding against possible further terrorist attacks.

Security levels at all island military bases today remained at Threatcon Delta -- the highest security condition. The U.S. Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith placed all bases in the Pacific Theater, which spans from the West Coast of the United States through the Pacific to Asia, on the highest state of alert.

Threatcon Delta applies to either "the immediate area where a terrorist attack has occurred," or "when intelligence indicates a terrorist attack against a specific location is likely," according to the Pentagon.

Security at Nimitz Gate at Pearl Harbor
Naval Base reaches its highest level.

Sailors were ordered to report to their ships and submarines at Pearl Harbor and the destroyer USS Russell, the oiler USNS Yukon and salvage ship USS Salvor were ordered to sea "to respond to any tasks in support of national defense at sea to contribute to the air and sea defense of the West Coast and Hawaii."

The Russell, Salvor and Yukon were the only Pearl Harbor warships sent to sea yesterday in response to the DOD order. On the mainland 12 other warships, including the carrier USS Stennis, were stationed near San Diego, Los Angeles and Seattle as further defense.

In the Persian Gulf, the Pearl Harbor-based destroyer USS O'Kane went on patrol as part of the USS Carl Vinson carrier battle group. The O'Kane is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, which have a range of 1,000 miles. The carrier battle groups normally include cruisers and submarines, which could be the launchpads for long-range cruise missile strikes, should a retaliatory strike be ordered.

Only 15 of Pearl Harbor's 150 warships and submarines are currently at sea. Due to return home shortly is the cruiser USS Chosin after a six-month deployment in the Western pacific.

The U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, the military's premiere forensic facility located at Hickam Air Force Base, had teams of experts on standby to be dispatched to the mainland to help in identifying the victims.

Cars were being searched at some bases such as Pearl Harbor before being allowed to enter. The military said that workers, however, should anticipate lengthy waits at the gates because of the heightened state of security. Lines were miles long at Kaneohe Bay and other bases since the military was allowing access only through one gate.

Armed military police, some using bomb sniffing dogs and metal detectors, were posted at entrances to island bases. Drivers were asked not only to present military identification but also asked to open the trunk of their vehicles.

Soldiers and airmen from the Hawaii National Guard, mobilized to supplement state law enforcement personnel at the Honolulu Airport, continued to work at island terminals as members of the state's security force.

The terrorist attacks also has delayed the start of a meeting on maritime safety between U.S. and Chinese military officials on Guam planned for later this week.

The talks, which were supposed to have taken place tomorrow and Friday, have been delayed "until more appropriate time," said Maj. Marcella Adams, spokeswoman for the U.S. Pacific Command.

Flight cancellations prevented participants, including Rear Adm. Stephen Smith, who will lead the U.S. delegation, from arriving on time.

Almost all of Hawaii's 16,000 civilian workers were told to stay home today, except for 1,900 workers at Hickam Air Force Base as well as those at the Kaneohe Marine base.

At other installations such as Pearl Harbor and Schofield Barracks, the military continued to keep non-essential civilian personnel home for a day. Pearl Harbor workers were told to return to work tomorrow.

About 7,000 civilians work at Pearl Harbor and Ford Island.

At Hawaii's Army installations, access was limited to one gate at Fort Shafter, Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield. Only those with military identification were allowed on the installations.

Tripler Army Medical Center and the Spark Matsunaga VA Medical and Regional Center were to reopen today. Classes resumed at Mokapu Elementary School on the Kaneohe Marine base.

Until last week, all island bases and posts were under Threatcon Normal, which generally means there is no threat or terrorist activity.

Progressively, as the threat level climbs, so does designation. Bases can go to Threatcon Alpha, Bravo, Charlie or Delta, with Delta being the most serious. Many non-working residents of military bases around the state found themselves sticking close to home yesterday because of the increased state of alert.

"It seems like most people were not venturing out too much," said Julie Johnson, a mother of five who lives with her husband and children on Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.

Johnson said her husband, Marine Maj. Anthony Johnson, reported for work as usual at Camp Smith, and she stayed home with their five children, also as usual.

But despite the attempts at normalcy, the day was anything but routine.

"There were more armed guards on patrol, and a lot of places on base were closed," said Julie Johnson, noting that Kaneohe's commissary and base exchange were closed because the civilian employees that staff them were restricted from base. The fact that the school was closed yesterday would not normally have affected the Johnson family since their children, ages 2 to 11, are home schooled.

The Army opened its chapels at the Aliamanu Military Reservation, Schofield Barracks and Helemano Military Reservation for prayer and counseling and have extended hours based on needs. Wheeler Chapel also was open for extended hours.

In response to yesterday's events, the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army have established a coordination point to disseminate information concerning military personnel stationed in Washington. Marines, sailors, family members and friends are encouraged to call 1-877-663-6772 for information. Air Force concerned family members and friends are encouraged to call 1-800-253-9276. Family members and friends of Army personnel can call 1-800-984-8523.

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