9/11 for­ever changed naval base

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

Sept. 11, 2001 brings to mind many sad, re­morse­ful mem­o­ries for lo­cal res­i­dents in Charles County. But for Naval Sup­port Fa­cil­ity In­dian Head, it was a mo­ment they knew they would be called upon for as­sis­tance.

Marc Sied­band was the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of of the base from 2000-2003.

In 2001, the base was called the Naval Sur­face War­fare Cen­ter In­dian Head Di­vi­sion and the one lo­cated at Stump Neck An­nex was the Naval Ex­plo­sive Ord­nance Dis­posal Tech­nol­ogy Di­vi­sion. In 2013, both com­mands merged to form the Naval Sur­face War­fare Cen­ter In­dian Head EOD Tech­nol­ogy Di­vi­sion.

Sied­band said when he first got the news about the 9/11 at­tacks, he was out do­ing in­spec­tions for a weekly safety re­port.

“We were told to stop do­ing the

in­spec­tion and go back to head­quar­ters,” Sied­band said. “While watch­ing the news we re­al­ized what had hap­pened and there was spec­u­la­tion that it was a ter­ror­ist at­tack, so we knew what was com­ing next.”

Sied­band said all on base were in a state of shock.

“We kept in­formed of what was go­ing on and we waited for di­rec­tion from the naval com­mand,” Sied­band said. “But ev­ery­thing on the base was han­dled very pro­fes­sion­ally. We took im­me­di­ate ac­tion to tighten up se­cu­rity, we took some steps on our own to dou­ble the guards at the gate and in­crease the pa­trols on the base wa­ter­front be­cause In­dian Head is a penin­sula, so it’s very vul­ner­a­ble to peo­ple com­ing in by wa­ter. We slowed down ac­cess to the base, but ev­ery­body with an ID card was able to get on the base. Peo­ple still came to work and we worked our way through it.”

Sied­band led the NSF In­dian Head fa­cil­ity of 1,750 em­ploy­ees tasked with re­search, de­vel­op­ment, test­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and in-ser­vice sup­port of en­er­getic ma­te­ri­als and re­lated com­po­nents to sup­port U.S. and al­lied war-fight­ers.

“Af­ter 9/11, the naval base was tasked with the ac­cel­er­ated de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion times to de­liver ther­mo­baric weapons [cave-buster bombs] for use in Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom, re­duc­ing a twoyear process to 67 days,” Sied­band said.

He said the level of en­gage­ment and ini­tia­tive from his team was first­class, and one of the main rea­sons he loved work­ing at NSF In­dian Head.

“While work­ing in In­dian Head you are in­volved in some dan­ger­ous things and pro­duc­ing things de­signed to be destruc­tive,” Sied­band said. “As a re­sult, what you do car­ries over to the per­son sit­ting next to you be­cause their life is in your hands. I think we re­sponded ex­cep­tion­ally well and quickly to both the se­cu­rity de­mands that were made on us and the re­spon­sive­ness to cre­ate what the mil­i­tary needed in very short or­der.”

Den­nis Chap­pell, direc­tor of CAD/PAD joint pro­gram of­fice at the base from 19642003, said he and other staff on base at the time watched the 9/11 at­tacks on a tele­vi­sion lo­cated in a con­fer­ence room.

“We said ‘Oh my God, this is not good,’” Chap­pell said. “We knew that we would be called upon to sup­port a war ef­fort that would be com­ing up af­ter that and we were cor­rect. The base told every­one to go home and the base closed down for a day. The im­pact on the joint pro­gram of­fice was mainly lo­gis­tic sup­port to sup­port the up­com­ing war fighter be­cause we sup­plied a lot of ex­plo­sive items that were used by the var­i­ous [mil­i­tary branches].”

Ac­cord­ing to Chap­pell, the CAD/PAD joint of­fice pro­gram fo­cused on cre­at­ing sys­tems for eject­ing bombs, mis­siles and other weapons. He said af­ter 9/11, due to height­ened se­cu­rity mea­sures, there was a wall built be­tween the town and the base.

“Not an ac­tual wall, but there was an in­vis­i­ble wall that di­vided the base and the com­mu­nity,” Chap­pell said.

“Ev­ery­thing changed af­ter 9/11, es­pe­cially the ease of com­ing and go­ing onto the base,” said Amy O’Don­nell, who heads up the Un­der­wa­ter and Coun­ter­mea­sures Di­vi­sion. “There were waves of re­al­iza­tion on the base; re­al­iz­ing the coun­try was un­der at­tack and re­al­iz­ing how this af­fected a com­mu­nity of peo­ple. The open ac­cess that I loved with the county and the town had been de­stroyed. The town and county have al­ways been sup­port­ive of the base, and I don’t know if we’ll ever be in a place where we can just open up the gates again.”

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