On Sunday, September 11, 2011, citizens of the United States in every corner of America will pause and remember the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., 10 years ago. Much has changed in those 10 years. We went to war in Afghanistan and then Iraq. We hunted and then killed the terrorist leader responsible for those attacks, Osama bin Laden. And we created a new Department of Homeland Security alongside numerous transportation security changes from the airport to the railway to the subway to prevent another assault.
This Sunday is America’s new Memorial Day, a moment of contemplation that draws many responses. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. At the Pentagon, 184 military personnel and civilians were killed. The Pentagon casualty list included the Army’s personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude. This is my remembrance of Tim Maude, who for me personifies 9/11 because of his key contributions to the strength of our nation’s armed forces and the response to the attack of that fateful day.
In April 2001 I completed a 26-year federal career, with the last eight years and 100 days in the Pentagon working for President Bill Clinton and his administration. After a very collegial and smooth transition with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration, I followed tradition and resigned my position as deputy secretary of defense.
Five months later, on September 11, 2001, I had just started a new job at The Boeing Company. At 9:30 a.m. my schedule had me picking up a colleague at a Pentagon City hotel. The hotel, part of an urban shopping mall built in the mid-1980s, is probably 300 yards from the southern side of the Pentagon building, with the major highway I-395 in between.
At 9:37 a.m. I stepped out of the car to greet my colleague, but turned instead to the sound of a low-flying aircraft. My first reaction was that a military fly-over of Arlington National Cemetery was about to occur. Instead, there was an immediate sound and flash. The sound was that of a pot falling off a stove and onto the floor—that was the aluminum aircraft hitting the Pentagon concrete. The flash was the ignition of the fuel from the plane, producing an orange ball that extended several hundred feet upward from the southwest face of the Pentagon. Aviation fuel does not explode, it combusts.
Within seconds, we were standing in front of the Macy’s and moving toward a walkway-tunnel that is normally used by Pentagon workers, visitors, and joggers. Exiting, we emerged in the south parking lot of the Pentagon, greeted by the fireball that is now black smoke and the sirens of the Arlington County Fire Department. Construction workers in the parking lot pointed to the route of the commercial aircraft down Columbia Pike and into the building.
Just like that, America had changed.
In those immediate seconds of chaos, training dominated instinct. Employees who had drilled on procedures for exiting the building were now streaming out of the Pentagon to the designated reconstitution point at the neighboring shopping mall. Security and first response teams led by the Pentagon Police and Arlington County Fire Department and Police were implementing plans that had been routinely practiced in weekend drills around the Pentagon.
But the elements of limited order that came from training and practice could not help those in the immediate area of the impact. At his desk that morning in the recently renovated wedge where the plane crashed into the Pentagon was Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude, the personnel chief for the U.S. Army.
Tim Maude entered military service as an enlisted soldier at the age of 19 from his hometown of Indianapolis. After finishing Officer Candidate School, he would be commissioned an officer in the Adjutant General’s Corps, receive his B.A. in management, and later receive his master of public administration from Ball State University. That was the beginning of a 35-year Army career that would focus on military personnel policy, operational readiness, and support of military families.
The 1990s would find Maj. Gen. Maude in Germany, responsible for the military personnel management of the U.S. Army in Europe. At that time, the focus was one of managing the turbulence from the drawdown of our armed forces in Europe. The Cold War had ended in 1989. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary were moving toward membership in NATO. The U.S. Army was reducing its numbers by 240,000 in Europe sending troops home to garrisons in the United States.
Yet by mid-decade, the NATO peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo were beginning to pressure troop rotations and operational tempo for Army units and their families. When operating tempo increases, personnel can be stretched and readiness is sometimes achieved by trying to do more with less. Balancing training and operational requirements is essential.
During this same period, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and President Clinton had selected me to serve as the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness at the Pentagon. They were concerned about operational tempo, troop morale and readiness, and family quality of life—all while the federal government was balancing its budget and reducing the deficit, and with military recruitment competing with a full-employment economy driven by a new commercial technology boom.
The end of the Cold War had profound operational implications for U.S. military forces, particularly the Army and Air Force. While Marine Corps and Naval units are by their very nature highly mobile and expeditionary, Army and Air Force capabilities were forward deployed to multiple locations throughout Europe to counter Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces that were in the region.
While Cold War tensions were regularly present, the operational tempo of U.S. forces was predictable and constant. At these forward locations, military housing, Department of Defense schools for military dependents, military medical facilities all provided direct support to readiness and families. But as the Soviet side disbanded, American units deployed in Germany and elsewhere began returning to the United States.
The Air Force would spend much of the 1990s perfecting its concepts of an expeditionary Air Force and inventing new operational concepts of global mobility. The Army started its planning, too, but it also faced the more complicated responsibilities of moving several hundred thousand soldiers and their families back to the United States.
In January 1998 those issues took me to the office of the Army personnel chief in Europe, Maj. Gen. Tim Maude.
Even as our armed forces were being designed to transition from forward deployed to expeditionary—where they would ship out from U.S. bases to overseas military areas of operation—a second challenge was emerging. No longer would military missions be constructed around a single wholesale mobilization. Instead, missions would be a series of contingent deployments that would require new concepts of troop rotation, training, and family support. This was Tim Maude’s challenge and legacy, and the key issue for a generation of rising Army leaders.
We met in Stuttgart, Germany, and were joined by other Army leaders, including Lt. Gen. Fred Vollrath, the Army’s deputy chief of staff. From these discussions came improved Pentagon policy planning to spread deployments among a wider group of Army personnel, including reserve and National Guard units. Bringing more units into the deployment mix made operational missions more manageable by expanding the pool of eligible units.
While controversial at the time, no decision would have greater long-term significance than the decision to send the Texas National Guard to Bosnia. The peacekeeping assignment was a prime military mission for U.S. forces and marked the Guard’s first overseas active duty since the Korean War. The Guardsmen were exceptional in performing their mission, signaling to the U.S. national security establishment that the Guard was ready as an operational reserve to combat missions.
Two decades and multiple military contingencies later, this is all very clear. In early 1998 it was not. When I met with Lt. Gen. Maude to discuss the Bosnia and Kosovo troop rotations, the tools of national security planning were very much in a state of reinvention and perfection. The first blueprints were on the table at the Stuttgart meeting in Tim Maude’s office.
The creation of expeditionary forces is still very much a work in progress. The concepts are being tested in every conceivable way in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the work that was done in the 1990s as the Army transitioned from forward deployments to expeditionary missions had a profound impact on U.S. forces. The policymakers create the headlines while the personnel specialists create better tools for troop deployments and training, and in the process produce better operational forces.
That was the work begun by Tim Maude and his colleagues in the Army.
So when the names are read on 9/11, I will not think of the perpetrators of the attack. Nor will I dwell on the painful and continuing legacy. Instead, I will pull out my photograph with Tim Maude and his fellow soldiers and remember his contribution to the Army, to his families of that Army, and to his country, the United States of America.
Lt. Gen. Maude is now buried at Arlington National Cemetery, next to the graves of Gen. Omar Bradley, the soldier’s soldier of D-Day, and Gen. Max Thurman, the key architect of the all-volunteer force.
Rudy deLeon is the Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress.