A day that forced change to military bases worldwide, including Fort Rucker

Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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FORT RUCKER, Ala. (WTVY) - September 11th, 200, was a day where everyone came together, no matter their position.

“That morning, we were at the battalion headquarters, and we always had the TV on, big TV, in the conference room... right there in the S-3 shop and suddenly... one of the guys come running into my office and said, ‘Hey you’re not going to believe this, Sergeant! Someone just crashed an airplane into one of the towers in New York,” explained John P Hendricks, Chief of IT Operations for G6 on Fort Rucker, about that day, “And then a little while later, the second one hit, and then we heard about the Pentagon, and then we heard about Pennsylvania aircraft.”

America facing its biggest threat yet. Military bases across the world were called to action.

“The call came from the Garrison Commander, Davis Tindell, and he said, ‘close the post down. time: now,” said Hendricks.

The changes brought concerns.

“At first, everybody was a little bit scared that we’ve got gun trucks on the gates and weapons, but the change of command here was very strict in their guidance: ‘You don’t point weapons at anybody unless there’s a determined threat. These are our friends. This is our community. We’re here to protect not only Fort Rucker, but the area,” explained Hendricks.

The following weeks were long and uncertain.

“The security sweeps we did around the installation to find vehicles that were parked in places they shouldn’t be... anything that didn’t look quite right -- we would call the MPs. They would come out do what they needed to do.”

Soldiers expected an eventual return to normalcy that would never come.

“Nothing was normal for at least 90 days, and I don’t think we were even normal then because as we hit what we thought was normal, the environment changed again,” said Hendricks.

At the end of each day... “I’d close out every shift briefed, with every shift coming off the gates, and every shift -- ‘Okay, what happened today? What went right? What went wrong? What can we do better?’ -- and at the end of that, ‘What else do you got?”

Support from the community kept them pushing forward.

“A lady came up and gave me a card. You could just see the look on their face. It made them feel like they were there doing something valuable. That you just weren’t a guy out standing on the gate that no one appreciated. You could see it in their eyes. It warmed their heart.”

9/11 forced Fort Rucker to re-evaluate safety procedures and increase security.

“The gate shacks, the latrines, the guest visitor centers, the stops that they have, so you could not run a gate.”

Over time the look changed but the security did not

“To see what we started with, and then to come in here after I got back from Afghanistan and left the 101st... come down here in ‘09 to see what we matured to... it was very nice to see that they see had the professionals at the gate. It was no kidding... professionally done. The people were well trained, well-motivated, well-disciplined... doing the right thing, and you can tell that their heads were on a swivel looking out.”

Regardless of the strides, Fort Rucker has made to today, that day 20 years ago, will never be forgotten.

“A lot of people talk about ‘Well, back then was painful. It was painful, but the whole thing we experienced was something that very seldom in your lifetime you get to see -- which is 100-percent, everybody lockstep behind you on one mission, no questioning and doing it for the right reason, and it was just something to see.”

After 9/11, Hendricks opted to serve overseas in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2021 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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