Tag Archives: Russell Petcoff

Dispatch from Pentagon Airman, Oct. 9, 2009

This is going to be a rough cold-and-flu season in the Pentagon. Several co-workers have been out sick at some point during the week and others are walking around with a cough and the sniffles. Working around sick folks makes me wonder if and when I will get sick? Wonder if it’s hazardous to one’s health to use hand sanitizer too often?  Can one use disinfectant spray like an air freshener? Allergy suffers are also adding to cough and sniffles; they quickly draw the question “Are you sick?”

Here’s what else is happening in the Air Force:

The creativity and generosity of Airmen is amazing. Airmen deployed to Afghanistan are using a classic college football rivalry to improve the lives of Afghans (Airmen use football rivalry to help Afghan people). Here’s what Capt. David Faggard wrote:

“We started this because it’s the right thing to do,” said Major [Tobin] Griffeth, a native of Schertz, Texas, and graduate of University of Texas, Arlington. “In a war where we’ll spend millions on bombs or missiles, it only makes sense to spend money on clothes or socks.

“I think this is a basic way we could help stop the Taliban and the insurgency — by winning their hearts and minds,” said the major, a graduate of North Kentucky’s Law School. “It’s also a way for Americans back home to get out there and start helping. (Afghans) don’t have much and they hear nothing but bad things about America.”

“It’s somewhat trivial,” Captain [Katie] Illingworth, an Oklahoma City native, and [University of Oklahoma] graduate said about the rivalry game back home. “But, it’s not as trivial as some think. Our rivalry is a big deal and this is a unique channel that allows people back home to support their teams and support America. The energy is there already; we’re just trying to re-direct it somewhere else.”

The group asks that no food or money be sent, but donations of winter clothes, school supplies and shoes are accepted.

Donations can be sent via flat-rate priority boxes: CJTF-82-OSJA APO AE 09354, addressed to Major Griffeth for Texas or Captain Illingworth for OU.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of ICBMs going on alert. A three-day celebration is taking place at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., to commemorate the event. This is a huge event for folks in the missile community. Having been stationed both at Warren and Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., I can just imagine the sense of pride among Airmen who are involved in all aspects of the missile mission. Happy anniversary!

In a story on a speech at the Capitol Hill Club (Global Strike Command leader updates progress), Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, talked about the importance of the ICBM force in protecting America. “The ICBM force contributes immeasurably to both deterrence and perhaps more importantly, to stability in a crisis,” General Klotz said. ICBMs are “…the most responsive to national leadership, continuously on alert, and deployed in 450 widely dispersed locations.

“The size and characteristics of the overall Minuteman III force presents any potential adversary with an almost insurmountable challenge,” the general said.

Air Combat Command has an interesting story about the Lindberg family (Lindbergs: Military dedication through generations). The feature chronicles the family that’s provided many Airmen to the Air Force — pilots and maintainers. The family is also a direct descendant to Charles Lindbergh, the man who first flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean. (Wonder what happened to the “h” in the family name?) Talk about a family commitment to the Air Force.

Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff works in the Pentagon with Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.

It’s 9/11

It’s the eighth anniversary of 9/11. I’m in the Pentagon. Worried? No. Saddened by this anniversary? Yes.

It’s hard to believe eight years have gone by. People always remember where they were and what they were doing when historic events happen. My parents’ generation remembers clearly where they were when they heard of President Kennedy’s assassination. For me, it’s 9/11. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.

I was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. The base was in the midst of an exercise. I had the day shift for public affairs in the battle staff. The morning was quiet. People were getting up to speed, waiting for the scenarios to begin. CNN was playing on the big television screen with news of Ahmad Shah Massoud’s assassination in Afghanistan. No one was paying attention.

A breaking news alert came on stating a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. I figured it was a small plane. When CNN showed live coverage of the smoke pouring out of a tower, I noticed how blue and clear the sky was. Thought to myself how could the pilot not see the building in front of him?

While watching the coverage, I noticed a small dark object come from the right of the screen. It moved rapidly towards the World Trade Center. Shortly afterwards, a fireball erupted from the tower. The second plane struck.

“This is no accident,” I said to the folks sitting next to me. Right in front of my eyes I was witnessing the worst terrorist attack on the United States. I went to my office and e-mailed some friends to say the World Trade Center had been struck by two aircraft. We needed to pray.

Returning to the battle staff, everyone was now riveted by the horrific events unfolding before us. When news came of the Pentagon being struck, we started thinking what’s next? I was two months away from taking a new assignment at the Pentagon to work on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office. A lieutenant colonel sitting in front of me – and who knew of my assignment – turned around and asked, “So, do you still want to go to the Pentagon?”

We were stunned when we saw a tower implode. The second tower imploded later. It was too hard to believe. What was happening?

The rest of the day was hectic. Media were calling the office. They wanted to know what the base’s response to the crisis was. I worked until late that night conducting interviews with Great Falls media. This was the first time I’d ever done on-camera interviews. Even a Canadian television outlet came down for a comment.

Two months later. I arrived in Washington and went to the Pentagon. The damaged section had been removed. The ugly gash looked like a cake with a piece cut out. People were coming to the Pentagon to pay their respects, many leaving flowers.

Eight years later, the damage to the Pentagon has been fixed. The memories remain.

This is Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff’s memories of when 9/11 happened.