9-11: Exercise Vigilant Guardian; Identification Technician Training


NEADS used the off-hours time during Exercise Vigilant Guardian to, at least in part, conduct position training, using the existence of a simulation cell to assist.  That training occurred at the Identification  (ID) position in the early morning hours of Sep 9 and again on Sep 10.  For the latter, we have available nearly sixty continuous minutes of audio.   The audio files, channel 5, DRM1, 051712 and 055500,  and channel 4, DRM1, 051246, provide a real time window into the fabric of life on the NEADS floor.  Notably, the scenario included a NORDO (no radio) aircraft, the same situation that would occur a day later with AA 11.  This training vignette provides a specific example of how a NORDO aircraft might have been handled.

A Note for Historians

For historians and researchers, the Commission accession number is RDoD3012647NEADS2of2GSABox110, as archived by NARA.  Together with a companion file, RDoD312646NEADS1of2GSABox110, it constitutes the second delivery of the NEADS tapes by DoD to the Commission.  The files are in .wav format and exist in segments by time and channel.  The audio file set for each Zulu (Universal Coordinated Time) day comes with an Access database.  It is helpful to print out a “call view” version of the files for each day for ease of reference.  The individual day printouts will exceed 100 pages, much more for the day of 9-11.  Audio files of a few seconds duration, 20 seconds or less, can generally be ignored.  They are typically dial tones or extraneous noise or static.  However, it is helpful to listen to them during periods of active exercise activity.

Training Commences

As we pick up the story there are four main players, the trainee, Mark, the trainer/mentor, the MCC (off mike) and a single person in the simulation cell acting as all external agencies and entities.  The trainer is Master Sergeant Maureen “Mo” Dooley, who will be the leader of the ID effort during the attack on the morning of 9-11.

A personal comment.  The Commission staff found Sergeant Dooley to be professional, dedicated, and helpful.  On our second visit to NEADS she was, literally, waiting in the door for us to return.

The training for Mark begins on channel 4.  We hear Sergeant Dooley ask if he was ready, it took him over a minute to respond positively, “OK, use and abuse.”  Earlier Dooley provided encouragement,  “OK Mark, water my eyes, baby.”  Here is that nearly two minute continuous clip.  0910051246 Water My Eyes

Next Mark had to identify a track lateral told to NEADS from SEADS.  Here is his call to SEADS simulated to obtain the initial information.  0910051500 Call to SEADS

That introduced a notional track, a Cubana B747, which departed Havana for Shannon, Ireland.  After some preliminary discussion Mark then announced the track to the NEADS sector floor.  The trainee confirmed with Sergeant Dooley that it was peacetime, exercise-wise.  Dooley confirmed that, but said they might do a “short war” like yesterday.  0910051712 Cubana Special 23

The trainee was also dealing with other tracks, two of which he identified as friendly, but there was a third track, B361, which he had to declare an unknown.  Here is that determination and declaration.  0910052512 Unknown For Exercise

The trainee ultimately determined the unknown to be friendly and told the MCC to stand down [a scramble].  Dooley corrected him and he then made the required floor announcement.  Concurrently he learned that the Cubana flight was deviating for unknown reason.  Note the profane exchange between Dooley and the sim person when she laughs at his attempt to explain an established air route.  0910053112 Unknown Resolved Cubana Deviating

The Cubana Flight

The trainee then turned his attention to the Cubana flight and asked the MCC if it was possible to use the fighters scrambled on the unknown to check it out.  He also determined that FAA was not requesting military assistance.  Dooley, in background, identified the plane as NORDO, confirmed by FAA simulated.  The trainee started a two minute timer because the plane had “hit the line,” penetrated the ADIZ.  Here is that sequence of events.  0910053600 Military Assistance Not Requested

The technician was running out of time and attempted to call Washington Center, the sim cell did not answer, probably intentionally to force a decision by the trainee which he made.  He declared the deviating Cubana flight to be an unknown and announced that to the sector floor.  He had no choice his two minutes were up.  Here is that audio clip.  0910053812 Had to go Unkown

As the technician made his calls he learned that Washington Center wanted the flight intercepted with hand signals to find out what was going on.  He reported that to the MCC.  Here is that audio clip.  0910054012 Intercept and Hand Signals

The trainee then worked one additional track with a five minute window to accomplish his work.  He made multiple calls to simulated agencies and determined the track to be an AT&T cable checker and declared him to be friendly in a floor announcement.  Cable checker flights are another example of the DVFR (Defense Visual Flight Rules) category that was discussed in the exercise article for Sep 9.  Such aircraft exit the ADIZ, stay out for an extended period, and then return, sometimes as an unknown.  Here is the notification to the MCC and the floor announcement.  0910055212 AT&T Cable Checker

NEADS simulated using fighters already airborne to confirm the NORDO situation with the Cubana flight.  By direction of the MCC the trainee advised FAA that the plane should land at Richmond to avoid the DC area.  While that was being determined Dooley can be heard in background critiquing some of the trainee’s actions.  Here is that last clip.  0910055500 Critique and Conclusion


The entire training session is an excellent vignette on how NEADS handled tracks of interest.  The standard was, as specified in the training session, that the ID section had five minutes to determine the identify and status of a track of interest.  They had two minutes if the track penetrated the ADIZ.  The technician can be heard continually verbalizing what he is doing, and Sergeant Dooley’s voice can be heard in background coaching him throughout the training session.

The other NEADS positions

A different channel, channel 4, DRM 1, picked up the activity at the MCC position in response to the the training session for the ID technician.  The series of audio clips are self explanatory, given the training scenario previously discussed.

Note that Major Nasypany, the MCC on the morning of 9-11, was on duty.  Note also that the Battle Cab (Director of Operations position) and the Senior Director were both simulated.

We pick up the other end of the story with a recommended scramble on the unknown.  The notional fighters (Langley) were redirected to the Cubana flight 17 minutes later and were on station nine minutes after that.  It then took three minutes to obtain CONR approval to close for hand signals.  Within four minutes the status of the NORDO Cubana flight had been determined and the DO directed that Richmond be the landing site to keep the aircraft “away from the NCA.”

Here are the series of audio clips over 33 minutes that complete the record of the Cubana NORDO flight training scenario.  The titles are explanatory, I’ll let the voices of the day tell the rest of the story.

0910052652 Recommend Scramble on Unknown0910052722 Scramble Langley0910053517 Track Went Friendly; 0910053814 Request to Divert Fighters; 0910053957 Insight for Fighter Sim Track Nasypany; 0910054012 Intercept and Hand Signals; 0910054311 Langley Diverted May Be Special 23; 0910054500 Weather OK Fighters Cleared in; 0910055139 Recommend Scramble on Cable Checker; 0910055238 Fighters if Cubana Fall Back; 0910055433 CONR Needs to Approve; 0910055512 CONR Approved Hand Signals; 0910055729 SD Report to MCC; 0910055900 Closed for Hand Signals0910055940 Keep Away from NCA

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