Panetta to Visit 9/11 Attack Sites
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2011 Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will spend today honoring those killed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, as he travels from the Pentagon to New York and Pennsylvania.
The secretary will visit ground zero in lower Manhattan, where hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 into the two towers of the World Trade Center. Panetta then will travel to the field near Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed after passengers struggled with hijackers for control of the aircraft. American Flight 77 exploded into the Pentagon shortly before the Pennsylvania crash.
The secretary will travel with five service members – one each from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard - who joined the military since 9/11, Douglas B. Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said.
-- Army Staff Sgt. Ryan M. Celko, who enlisted in the Army in 2004 and deployed twice with the 10th Mountain Division’s 4th Base Support Team Battalion out of Fort Polk, La. During his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2006, Celko's unit conducted route reconnaissance and clearance operations in Ghazni province from forward operating bases Wolverine and Warrior. His primary role was a M240B gunner. During his Iraq deployment from November 2007 to January 2009, he was squad leader and a Husky vehicle driver operating from Forward Operating Base Loyalty, east of Baghdad. He is from Middlesex, N.J.
-- Navy Lt. Adam C. Jones, who enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy in 2002 and earned his commission in 2006. His was the first class to enroll after 9/11. He was selected to the surface warfare community and served two tours: the first aboard the 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge, and the second as an electronic warfare officer deployed with the 2-1 Calvary Brigade in Kirkuk, Iraq. He is from Annapolis, Md.
-- Marine Corps Sgt. Carlos A. Tovar, who enlisted in March 2008. He deployed to Iraq in January 2009, where he served with the Marine Transport and Refueler Squadron 252. Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, he became a U.S. citizen while serving in the Marine Corps. He is from Orlando, Fla., and is a 1st degree black belt in martial arts.
-- Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez Jr., who enlisted in 2002 following graduation from Southwestern Community College. He deployed to Africa in support of Marine and Navy special operations elements, and twice to Afghanistan, where he was responsible for directing airstrikes in support of Army Special Forces. Gutierrez received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and was selected as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 2010. He was wounded by enemy fire on his second deployment. He is from Chula Vista, Calif.
-- Coast Guard Lt. Nikea L. Natteal, who graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2006 as part of the first class to enroll following 9/11. She has served aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, homeported in Alameda, Calif., where she participated in the seizure of illegal fishing vessels. She also has served as an intelligence watch and warning officer in support of Coast Guard surface assets serving under the direction of the Navy's 6th Fleet, and has overseen intelligence operations during Operation Southeast Watch following the earthquake in Haiti. She is from Yuma, Ariz.
Jerry Bingham also will accompany Panetta. His father, Mark Bingham, is believed to have been one of the passengers who stormed the cockpit on Flight 93.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is scheduled to join Panetta at ground zero, where the two will tour the Sept. 11 memorial, scheduled for unveiling on the attack’s 10th anniversary. Panetta later will tour the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania, also set for unveiling Sept. 11.
Both memorials are closed to media representatives until family members of 9/11 victims visit the sites before the unveilings, Wilson said. While in New York, the secretary is scheduled to have lunch with members of Helmets to Hardhats, an organization that works to connect veterans with construction jobs, he added.
Panetta’s visit to the attack sites is meant to serve as a remembrance of those who perished in the attacks, to emphasize the concept of service to the nation, and to honor those, both uniformed and civilian, who have served the nation over the last 10 years, Wilson said.
In Panetta’s view, “This generation of men and women in uniform, like previous generations, has stepped forward – and the country is better as a result,” Wilson said.
Panetta will follow today’s visits to the crash sites by participating throughout the week in several other events commemorating the 9/11 attacks, Wilson said.