We Cannot Forget the Significance of the 9/11 and U.S.S. Cole Attacks
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 occurred in the middle of my naval service. They also weren’t the first time that America had been hit by Al Qaida. That initial attack had occurred less than a year before, as I was serving in the Persian Gulf.
That day, I had just, as our submarine’s SCUBA Diving Officer, finished up a security dive with a swim buddy around and under the hull, ensuring no abnormalities. The water had been warm, and visibility had been effectively zero. A sheep carcass, perhaps from the passing barges of animals, was floating outside the submarine’s protective berm. As a result, we swam slowly and methodically in order to cover everything.
Once topsides, we received flash message traffic to immediately get our submarine underway, a full day earlier than planned. I shed my SCUBA gear and began calling crew members back to the submarine, many of whom had been ashore exploring Bahrain. Then, we received a follow-up message, ordering us to use a special procedure to further reduce our time to sea.
I quickly changed into my uniform, gathered our engineering team in the Wardroom, and briefed the team on the directive. I headed aft to Maneuvering, the supervisory space of the propulsion plant, and led, as Engineering Officer of the Watch, the reactor startup’s execution. We successfully established propulsion, and, in record time, got safely to sea.
Before we dove, we learned the reason for our accelerated underway: the USS Cole that day, in Aden Harbor, Yemen, had been bombed, killing seventeen American sailors.
Upon diving, we assumed position in our operating area, went to Battle Stations, spun up Tomahawk missiles, and stood by for authorization to launch an attack against Al Qaida.
When 9/11 happened, eleven months later, our submarine was in Pearl Harbor Submarine Base. As we watched the carnage of the Twin Towers, Pentagon, where an Annapolis classmate of mine was killed, and Flight 93, we agonized with the victims and their families, just as we had with those of the USS Cole.
Shortly after, I received orders to COMSUBGRU EIGHT/CTF 69 directing me to supervise a task force of deployed submarines, including those with Navy SEAL capabilities. Initially, from that overseas joint operating center in a deep underground bunker, war seemed distant, as Afghanistan was beyond our theater. Yet, over the next 2 ½ years, our own theater became transformed. I coordinated one of the largest nuclear submarine task forces in history for Operation Iraqi Freedom, collaborated with CIA and SOCOM on weapons of mass destruction issues, built multinational naval exercises, and planned Global War on Terrorism missions requiring the President’s direct approval.
Many issues are critical in the 2020 U.S. Senate race, from healthcare to our agricultural markets. National security is also critical. In particular, I will fight, as Montana’s next U.S. Senator, to keep partisanship out of, and data-driven decision making in, our governmental agencies, from CIA to Homeland Security. I will also work to restore our alliances around the world, especially with countries whose troops have fought in our wars and whose intelligence services have helped us prevent another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. In addition, I will never forget that national security is a selfless, intergenerational, non-partisan effort – just as it was over the multi-decadal Cold War, won by the U.S. – for which there should be no reward other than the safety, happiness, and prosperity of one’s fellow Americans.