9-11: Impact and Rebound

Article excerpt

September 18, 2001 Army Entertainment Division Fort Belvoir, Virginia

Dear Army Entertainment Division,

I wanted you to know that your 2001 Army Soldier Show couldn't have happened at a better time here at Fort Lewis, Wash.

As you know our country has taken on a serious face like we have never done before in this generation. We are all grieving and concerned for what has happened and what is yet to happen. I'm not only a fitness trainer as a government employee. I am also a soldier's wife. So, you can understand that it is hard for me to be uplifting when I have to continue to work with others in a positive way.

For the first time since the tragedy of our nation, I was able to laugh inside and outside when I attended your show. I was able to enjoy every aspect of the show. You couldn't help but see the change and morale on the faces of our soldiers in the audience. This is the first show I have ever attended and it won't be my last.

I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you, but I wanted you to know the full meaning of my thank you.

Sincerely, Wilma Guerra Fitness Specialist, Fort Lewis Sports Fitness & Aquatics Division

In the days and weeks that followed Sept. 11, we all worked through many emotions: anger, grief, hate, despair, denial and helplessness. As I attended meetings with the Army staff at the Department of Defense Family Assistance Center, I realized that the three letters M-W-R stand for much more than the programs we deliver in Army Morale, Welfare, and Recreation.

Those letters embody what it means to be an American -- that we have free time and the freedom to make choices about what we do with that free time. They also embody caring: caring about and supporting soldiers, children, families, retirees and our civilian neighbors.

Those letters also remind us of our heritage. Morale-boosting programs have always been there for our armies, from the Revolutionary War to the Balkans. We applied lessons learned to make our MWR programs stronger and better. We endured.

We must be mindful that our first and foremost mission is service. Service is the cornerstone, the hallmark of MWR. Because of our resolve, we will overcome this situation and move on with the business of supporting those who defend our flag, our country and our freedom.

God Bless America.

With these words, Brig. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, commander of the Alexandria, Va.-based U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center, rallied the 37,000-member Army Morale, Welfare, and Recreation workforce around the world as the impact of 9-11 events rippled through the ranks.

Business was anything but usual for MWR in the hours and days after the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. Army MWR includes not only recreation programs, but also family support programs. Next to expressing sorrow and offering prayers, every military leader's primary concern -- from the four-star chief of staff in the Pentagon to the platoon sergeant in a unit -- was for the safety and security of soldiers and families.

That concern was reflected immediately in heightened states of alert called the "force protection condition." The higher the level of force protection, the more restricted access to federal buildings and military installations and facilities becomes, a condition that had an immediate impact on MWR that continues today.

Headquarters Top Priorities: Accountability and Assistance

At CFSC, the command's first order of business was to physically account for each of the nearly 3,000 civilians and soldiers working for or assigned to the agency: 500 in Alexandria and the rest scattered around the country and the world from Germany to Korea. Five employees, including the commanding general, were in the Pentagon when American Airline flight 77 crashed into the building. All were safe.

Employees traveling to or from myriad destinations were contacted by cell phone. …