Fort McCoy police veterans recall post-9/11 response

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On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Fort McCoy was an open installation, and it was a bright, beautiful, blue sky kind of day.

That same morning, current Fort McCoy Police Chief Brian Bomstein was sleeping after working until 1 a.m. at a saw mill, and Deputy Police Chief Brian Lord was in Madison attending a criminal justice college class. By all accounts, it was a pretty normal September morning for all.

Then, at 8:46 a.m. Eastern time, a civilian jetliner slammed into the North Tower of New York's World Trade Center. And just a short time later, at 9:02 a.m., another airplane slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

"I was woken up that morning by a phone call from a friend who told me to turn on the TV," said Bomstein, who leads the Fort McCoy Directorate of Emergency Services Police Department. "Back then I worked 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. at a lumber mill, and I was an Army Reservist. My friend said, 'Turn on the TV, I think we are under attack.'

Bomstein said he turned on the TV and "saw the two towers smoking."

"I remember the news reporters saying that a third plane had crashed, and discussions began on the news that this appeared to be intentional," he said. "I hung up the phone and immediately started packing my ruck sack. I knew we had been attacked, and we're going to war. And on Oct. 1, 2001, I was activated and in-processed through Fort McCoy."

When Bomstein was activated to active-duty service in October 2001, he was assigned to the 6015th Garrison Support Unit. On Sept. 11, however, Lord was called up to serve in the same unit that very day.

"I was sitting in that college class in Madison, and they wheeled in a television to show what was going on after the first plane hit a tower," Lord said. "Then we watched the second plane strike the other tower. And shortly after the second plane strike, I received a phone call from my first sergeant directing movement to Fort McCoy. I arrived to our admin building that evening."

After the first two plane crashes, a third plane hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. And at 10:03 a.m., a fourth plane, which was kept from hitting another target by hijackers thanks to a brave stand by passengers, crashed into a field outside Shanksville, Pa.

Before that September morning was over, life had changed for all Americans. Life had changed for the world.

"Watching that unfold on TV brought a mix of emotions," Lord said. "I went from being emotionally stunned and shocked to being infuriated."

Lord said he excused himself from class and very quickly was packed and on the road to Fort McCoy. He doesn't remember exactly the time he arrived on post, but said he arrived by the late afternoon or early evening.

"That evening I was doing CQ (charge of quarters) duty in building 2014, which is no longer in existence at Fort McCoy," Lord said. CQ is a tasked duty in which a service member is to guard the front entrance to a building - usually a barracks, according to the Army definition for the duty. It is often a 24-hour shift in which the two service members - usually one noncommissioned officer and a junior enlisted service member -sit at a desk to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic into the building.

For Lord, for the first month after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he said the mission was a lot of "up and downs." His unit worked on getting official orders, and people across the installation were reacting to a new security posture as the Fort McCoy cantonment area now had to be secured and gates had to be manned.

"The biggest thing I remember is coming to the post and seeing someone manning an access control point," Lord said. "Before 9/11, that was never the case."

Post-Sept. 11, the only gate open on the cantonment area was the old Main Gate, Lord said. And other things changed throughout the cantonment area as well thanks to stepped-up force-protection measures.

"I think at that time, with everything going on, it was a learn-as-you-go process for everybody," Lord said. "The physical resources, at first, didn't exist for the mission we were being asked to perform. This included enough people and vehicles. We really had no vehicles to speak of."

Bomstein said he and Lord didn't know each other before 9/11. But slowly after being mobilized together to work on the post, that changed. He said they both worked many long days doing their best to protect resources and to support the ever-changing mission on the installation.

"I remember us working to complete a lot of Soldier readiness processing, and much more," Bomstein said. "I also remember them moving quite a bit around post. One of the buildings we worked from was building 1761, which is now used for the JLTV (Joint-Light Tactical Vehicle) training."

Within a year of being activated at Fort McCoy as a Reservist, Bomstein said he was hired on as a civilian police officer with the Fort McCoy Police Department. "They had some openings, and I got hired," he said.

Bomstein served two years full time as a Soldier after 9/11 before becoming a full-time officer at the end of his second military tour in 2003.

It was much the same for Lord. During activation time on McCoy, he served two one-year tours with military police for his unit. Then by 2005, he was a full-time Fort McCoy police officer.

Now, 20 years after their friendship and service together started at Fort McCoy, Bomstein and Lord said they both would have never thought they would ascend to be the chief and deputy chief of the Fort McCoy police force. They both also said they won't ever forget that day and all the changes that have happened at Fort McCoy since.

"I don't think 20 years ago that I would have ever envisioned myself in this line of work," Lord said. "I think we both worked hard to get where we're at, and I know we'll never forget."

"That was a pretty powerful day," Bomstein said. "I am like many people who play that day back over and over in my head. It was one of those landmark times in history that I think people will never forget. ... It's also something that you can look back at and see how that one (day) literally changed the trajectory of your life."

Since 9/11, Fort McCoy has a closed and secured cantonment area and upgraded security measures are set up on range areas as well. The post also had a new Main Gate area built, new police and fire department buildings and the Central Issue Facility built, dozens of range and training areas upgraded, and more.

The installation also has served as a unit deployment mobilization hub the last 20 years. Most recent was the mobilization of two units during exercise Pershing Strike '21.

"I think we're both glad to have been a part of the installation's 9/11 response, but also proud to still be serving here today," Bomstein said.

Bomstein left the Army Reserve in 2006 to focus full time on civilian police duties that have included leading the Fort McCoy Special Reaction Team. Lord retired from the Army Reserve in 2019. Prior to that, he had attended the Army Airborne School and Military Police Investigations and Army Equal Opportunity Advisor courses.

Both Bomstein and Lord assumed their current positions in 2020.

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