9/11: Real World or Exercise?

At least five exercises were in operation in the days leading up to and on 9/11.

1) Operation Northern Vigilance.
2) Biowarfare Exercise Tripod II.
3) Operation Vigilant Guardian.
4) Operation Northern Guardian.
5) Operation Vigilant Warrior.

The exercises caused great confusion during the 9/11 attacks.

9/11 Flight Controller: "Is this real world or exercise?"

WMV video download (95kB)

"First thing that went through my mind was, 'Is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?'" said Air Force Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold, who was at a command center at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. [ABC News]
Sgt. Jeremy W. Powell of North American Aerospace Defense Command's (Norad) Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, N.Y., took the first call from Boston Center. He notified NEADS commander Col. Robert K. Marr, Jr., of a possible hijacked airliner, American Airlines Flight 11. "Part of the exercise?" the colonel wondered. No; this is a real-world event, he was told. [Aviation Week]
At 8:40, Deskins noticed senior technician Jeremy Powell waving his hand. Boston Center was on the line, he said. It had a hijacked airplane. "It must be part of the exercise," Deskins thought. At first, everybody did. [Newhouse]
As you know through previous testimony from Gen. Eberhart to Congress, we were in the middle of a NORAD exercise at that particular time. Which means, that basically our entire staff was focused on being able to do the air operations center mission, which was our job to do. We had just come out of a video teleconference with the NORAD staff and with our folks at that particular time when I was handed note that we had a possible hijacking in Boston Center. And it had come from the Northeast Air Defense Commander Col. Bob Meyer (phonetic) who is commander up there and he had requested that I call him immediately. And I was upstairs in our facility. I immediately went downstairs and picked up the phone, asking on the way to my staff, is this part of the exercise? Because quite honestly and frankly, we do do hijacking scenarios as we go through these exercises from time-to-time. But I realized that it was not that this was real-life. [9/11 Commission]

See also: War Games: The Key to a 9/11 USAF Stand Down

What Really Happened

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