News

September 2, 2002

When Secretary of the Army Thomas White and other top leaders receive their thrice-weekly briefings on worldwide military deployment at the highly restricted Army Operations Center deep within the Pentagon, prominent along with the television and computer monitor screens in the backdrop behind the presenters is a handmade quilt -- a mosaic of patches reflecting some children's thoughts about what happened last Sept. 11.

The quilt was sewn during the past academic year by Jennifer Milton's and Dawn Gregg's fifth grade classes at Claymont Intermediate School. It hangs where it does as an inspiration to the men and women of the Army's Crisis Team who have staffed the center around the clock since the infamous 'attack on America'.

Commanding one of the four shifts performing that duty is Lt. Col. Butch Hamlett. He was assistant to the principal, Susan Gleich, at Claymont Intermediate. At lunchtime on Sept. 17, 2001, he received a telephone call at the school informing him that his service were needed elsewhere.  The next

This quilt, made by Claymont students, hangs in the Army Operations Center in the Pentagon
morning he reported for duty at the Pentagon, home of the Department of Defense and the high command of the nation's military services. He'll be there until at least December, and possibly longer considering the present uncertainty over the future course of U.S. military involvement.

Hamlett won't share his feelings about what the immediate future holds. All he is willing to say is, "This is where I belong right now. I'll be here as long as I'm needed. ... I miss the kids, but I don't want to go back until my [military] assignment is completed."

He added that he is far from alone in that regard.

A Reserve officer, he is not unusual in having been called to step on short notice from a civilian position. Col. Michael Ryan said that there were about 2,000 Army reservists on duty before Sept. 11. Today there are 34,000. Some have recently had tours of duty extended and the total is likely to grow during the next several weeks, he said. Included are men and women of all ranks called as individuals and those belonging to activated Army Reserve and National Guard units.

"I don't think people, outside of those directly affected, realize how extensive it (mobilization) has been," he said.

When the crisis team was activated last Sept. 12, it was comprised almost entirely of Army regulars. It is now more than 90% reservists. "We're doing what we were intended to do -- augmenting headquarters staff," Ryan said. "It's not a matter of freeing [regulars] for 'more important' duty. We've enabled them to return to their [prior] duties while we take on very important new duties -- in this case, getting accurate information to the Army's leadership."

Deployment of reservists -- even at the high command level  which is the Pentagon -- appears to be seamless. Unlike prior times when activated personnel had to be trained to assume active roles, current military doctrine emphasizes parallel duties. Reservists are prepared to step directly into their active duty assignments, Hamlett said. "In many cases, we have a greater depth of institutional knowledge than [regulars] who frequently rotate assignments."

Hamlett's current assignment is mobilization. His and the other shifts in that division of the crisis team are responsible for handling the paperwork and myriad of details required to call reservists and reserve-component units to duty as needed. In a very literal sense, he is the one of the people who

decides who goes where during the course of the partial mobilization that President George Bush has ordered.

The shifts work 13-hour tours for six days and then have three days off. An around-the-clock arrangement is required because the work involves contact with commands and units in time zones around the world.

To further a sense of kinship with forward units, Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarilli, who commands the crisis team, has prescribed combat dress, albeit without weapons, as the standard duty uniform. "He feels that to shop respect to the soldiers in the field we ought to dress like they do," Hamlett said. 

The practice turns out to be  more than symbolic, however.

Permeating the Pentagon is a very noticable sense of having come through combat. When the mammoth building was hit by a highjacked airliner on Sept. 11, it was the first military installation in the contiguous states to come

Delawareans on duty at the Pentagon

Lt. Col. Butch Hamlett

Maj. Rita Wiley Lt. Col. Kenneth Madden Jr

under attack by an enemy since the Civil War.

Maj. Gen. Robert Chesnut, an investment advisor from Mississippi was on temporary active duty as a reservist that day. As it happened, he was on an escalator en route to the outer-ring office of a colleague -- and friend -- near where the airplane hit. The other man was killed. "You don't realize until something like that happens that a lot of people [in the military] are putting their lives at risk," he said. "What happened here was a lot like combat." Chesnut saw combat in Vietnam.

The President and other dignitaries will gather this Sept. 11 for commemoratory exercises before the restored exterior wall where the airplane hit. The new limestone there exactly matches the rest of the structure. Inside, much of the area has been rebuilt.

No one at the Pentagon, however, uses the word 'repair'. The work is officially a renovation and Hamlett explained that is not symbolic either. Almost since the day it opened during World War II, the building has been refitted, remodeled and updated. "Maybe deep down, there's some of the original wiring left in the walls, but that is all that's original about this place," he said.

There is no lack of familiar faces -- many of which belong to Delawareans -- encountered as he escorts a visitor through some of the Pentagon's open areas.

Lt. Col. Kenneth Madden Jr., for instance, is a fellow educator. He resigned as principal of Seaford High School when his call to duty came last year. "We're doing a valuable mission. I'm pleased to have the opportunity to serve as a staff officer at this level," he said.

Maj. Rita Wiley, of Middletown, assistant executive officer to General Chiarilli, said serving on active duty "is an excellent opportunity to learn and be involved." Although it meant partial separation from her husband and three daughters, both her family and her civilian-side employer, M.B.N.A. Bank, have been supportive.

Air Force Sgt. First Class Monica Morris, of Glen Mills, Pa., said she and others have a feeling of "waiting for something else to happen." She added that she is not apprehensive but said that "it keeps us on our toes."

Hamlett said those comments are typical of the attitudes he finds in contacts with reservists, not only at the Pentagon but around the country, in his role as a mobilizer. While there may be varying levels of enthusiasm about the prospect, there is very little distinction these days between voluntary and involuntary call-ups, he said.

Strictly speaking, most of the individual reservists now on active duty have volunteered for their assignments. But Hamlett explained that is mostly a matter of expediting the process. The military has the authority to order such personnel to duty. A presidential partial mobilization carries a service obligation of up to two years.

He agrees the situation bears out the old Army adage of a commander asking for 'three volunteers -- you, you and you'.

During the Vietnam War era, membership in National Guard and Reserve units was a sinecure from the draft. More than a generation has now passed through a time of all-volunteer military service. To be sure, there are some who opt for part-time reserve service to earn extra income or receive educational benefits, but Hamlett said he believes a significant number, probably a majority, are there out of patriotism and a sense of obligation to their country.

"They volunteered to serve in time of emergency when they first put on the uniform," he said. "They may not have thought it would happen, but when the balloon goes up, they're ready to serve."

In his case that was when he enlisted in the Air Force in 1971. He joined the Army National Guard in 1979 and received his commission at Delaware's Officer Candidate School. After 20 years in the Guard, he transferred to the Army Reserve as an individual. The Pentagon was his duty station, where he performed the equivalent of a weekend a month and two weeks a year of temporary active duty. A resident of Lynnfield, his civilian career included working on the assembly line and in personnel at the General Motors Boxwood plant before getting his teaching degree from Wilmington College. He then went on to teach fifth and sixth grades at Harlan Intermediate and Claymont.

2002. All rights reserved.

Get more information about this topic

Read about General Chesnut's experience in detail
Read about the Pentagon Renovation Program

Read frequently asked questions about mobilization

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