Did Training Exercises Facilitate the Pentagon Attack?

Editor: Profuse thanks to astute 9/11 researcher and historycommons.org contributor Matthew Everett for allowing us to debut his highly thought-provoking study of the many military exercises preceding 9/11.
Not only do these well-documented attack rehearsals belie huge swaths of the official story and the 9/11 Commission's investigative zeal, their similar protocols offer a suggestive way to re-explore air defense dysfunction on the day itself.


Since 9/11, numerous authors and researchers have drawn attention to training exercises being conducted or prepared for by the U.S. military and other government agencies at the time of the September 11 attacks. With names like Vigilant Guardian, Global Guardian, Timely Alert II, and Tripod, the question has arisen as to what connection these drills might have had with real-world events that morning.[1]

Attention has also been drawn to exercises held prior to 9/11, often bearing an uncanny resemblance to the actual attacks. For example, soon after 9/11 the New Yorker reported: “During the last several years, the government regularly planned for and simulated terrorist attacks, including scenarios that involved multiple-plane hijackings.”[2] USA Today reported: “In the two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted exercises simulating … hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets and cause mass casualties. One of the imagined targets was the World Trade Center.”[3]

As I will show in this essay, exercises also took place that bore a chilling resemblance to the attack on the Pentagon. I will look at evidence suggesting that the Pentagon actually scheduled another such training exercise for the morning of 9/11. I will end by briefly examining the possible implications of these exercises and considering whether they might have helped facilitate the attack on the Pentagon.


After 9/11, members of the Bush administration claimed that no one had previously envisioned the kinds of attacks that occurred that day. For example, Condoleezza Rice said: “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.”[4] However, these claims were totally untrue. Besides the exercise involving the simulated crashing of a plane into the WTC, there were at least three separate exercises in the 12 months prior to 9/11 based around a plane hitting the Pentagon.

The first of these occurred in late October 2000. In the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s conference room, military planners held the Pentagon Mass Casualty Exercise, which was based around a passenger aircraft crashing into the Pentagon, with 341 victims. The exercise was first described in a military newspaper in a report that the British Daily Mirror later said, “reads like an account of what actually happened” on 9/11.[5]

The next such exercise occurred in May 2001. As U.S. Medicine later reported, the Department of Defense’s response to the 9/11 attacks “was aided by the fact that department medical personnel had carried out a simulation exercise in May in which a hijacked 757 airliner crashed into the Pentagon.”[6] The DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic and the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic, both located within the Pentagon, participated. Doctors James Geiling and John Baxter later said this exercise prepared them well to respond to the Pentagon attack on 9/11.[7]

Presumably referring to the two exercises described above, Lieutenant Colonel John Felicio, the deputy commander for administration of the DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, said: “The saving grace to our efforts [on 9/11] was the two MASCAL exercises we previously had conducted with the clinic leadership and staff. You know it was kind of eerie. The scenario we had for these MASCALS was very similar to what actually happened. Our scenario for both MASCALS was a plane flying into the Pentagon courtyard.”[8]

The third exercise occurred in August 2001, just one month before 9/11. This was another mass casualty exercise held at the Pentagon, involving an evacuation of the building. According to General Lance Lord, Air Force Space Command commander, “the scenario for that exercise included a plane hitting the building.”[9]


We can see that Pentagon training exercises prior to 9/11 routinely involved the simulated crashing of an aircraft into the building. But might another such exercise have been scheduled for the morning of 9/11? There are various pieces of evidence indicating this may have been the case. Although the existence of such an exercise has never been stated explicitly, this might be because the exercise was declared classified. In fact, supposedly due to the national emergency declared by President Bush in response to the 9/11 attacks, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz issued a memo to senior DoD officials in October 2001, requesting a particularly high level of secrecy. He urged that “Defense Department employees, as well as persons in other organizations that support DoD, exercise great caution in discussing information related to DoD work, regardless of their duties. Do not conduct any work-related conversations in common areas, public places, while commuting, or over unsecured electronic circuits. Classified information may be discussed only in authorized spaces and with persons having a specific need to know and the proper security clearance. Unclassified information may likewise require protection because it can often be compiled to reveal sensitive conclusions. Much of the information we use to conduct DoD’s operations must be withheld from public release because of its sensitivity. If in doubt, do not release or discuss official information except with other DoD personnel.”[10]

Despite the secrecy, the combination of evidence I summarize below suggests a training exercise on 9/11, based around an aircraft crashing into the Pentagon:

i) Captain Charles Leidig, Jr. had assumed duties as the deputy for command center operations in the J3 Directorate of the Joint Staff just two months before 9/11. In August 2001, he qualified to stand watch as the deputy director for operations in the National Military Command Center (NMCC), which is located within the Pentagon. The day before 9/11, Brigadier General W. Montague Winfield, the deputy director for operations in the NMCC, requested that Leidig stand a portion of his duty on September 11. Thus, between 8:30 a.m. and roughly 10:30 a.m. that day (i.e. for almost the entire duration of the attacks) a stand-in officer was in charge of convening a Significant Event Conference (subsequently upgraded to an Air Threat Conference) in response to the attacks.[11] No further explanation has been given as to why or how this situation arose. But might the reason (or at least the excuse given) have been that Leidig needed to gain experience as deputy director for operations by assuming this role during a training exercise?

ii) The accounts of some Pentagon medical staff suggest they were preparing for a MASCAL (mass casualty) exercise the morning of September 11. For example, Sergeant Matthew Rosenberg, a medic at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, recounts: “We had virtually completed our MASCAL plan. ? Believe it or not, the day prior to the incident, I was just on the phone with the FBI, and we were talking ‘so who has command should this happen, who has the medical jurisdiction, who does this, who does that,’ and we talked about it and talked about it, and he helped me out a lot. And then the next day, during the incident, I actually found him. He was out there on the incident that day.”[12] According to Major Lorie A. Brown, chief nurse of the DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, the morning of 9/11, “We actually had our MASCAL equipment out of the storage areas because we were doing an inventory. So there were many pieces that just fell into place and worked so well on that day. It was just fortuitous. It was just amazing that way that things kind of happened the way they did.”[13]

As I have described above, three previous Pentagon exercises incorporated a simulated plane crashing into the place. And early in the morning of 9/11, Matthew Rosenberg was reportedly “down on Corridor 8” of the Pentagon, “grateful for an uninterrupted hour in which he could study a new medical emergency disaster plan based on the unlikely scenario of an airplane crashing into the place.”[14] Might he have been studying in preparation for an exercise taking place later that day?

iii) At least two army bases near the Pentagon were conducting training the morning of 9/11 based around terrorist attacks or plane crashes. At Fort Belvoir, about 12 miles south of the Pentagon, they were running a “garrison control exercise,” which aimed “to test the security at the base in case of a terrorist attack.”[15] At the Education Center at Fort Myer, an army base 1.5 miles northwest of the Pentagon, firefighters were attending what has been described as an “aircraft crash refresher class” and a “week-long class on air field fire fighting.”[16]

According to Major Don Arias, NORAD’s public affairs officer, “it’s common practice, when we have exercises, to get as much bang for the buck as we can. So sometimes we’ll have different organizations participating in the same exercise for different reasons.”[17] Might the antiterrorist exercise at Fort Belvoir have been scheduled as part of a larger exercise at the nearby Pentagon, and might the “aircraft crash refresher class” at Fort Myer have been scheduled as part of an exercise involving an aircraft crashing into the Pentagon? After all, the Fort Myer Fire Department is responsible for operating the fire station at the Pentagon heliport, just 150 feet from where the building was hit on 9/11.[18]


What is the significance of these training exercises? Is it just coincidence that at least three exercises were held in the year before 9/11, based around the scenario of a plane crashing into the Pentagon? If another aircraft-into-Pentagon exercise was scheduled for 9/11, is this just another even bigger coincidence?

Several writers have suggested a more sinister role played by training exercises that mirror real-world events. They believe such exercises happening at the same time, or prior to an attack, can indicate that a criminal group within the government and military are responsible. According to author Webster Tarpley: “Staff exercises or command exercises are perfect for a rogue network which is forced to conduct its operations using the same communications and computer systems used by other officers who are not necessarily party to the illegal operation, coup or provocation as it may be. A putschist officer [i.e. a rogue officer] may be working at a console next to another officer who is not in on the coup, and who might indeed oppose it if he knew about it. The putschist’s behavior is suspicious: what the hell is he doing? The loyal officer looks over and asks the putschist about it. The putschist cites a staff maneuver for which he is preparing. The loyal officer concludes that the putschist’s activities are part of an officially sanctioned drill, and his suspicions are allayed. The putschist may even explain that participation in the staff exercise requires a special security clearance which the loyal officer does not have. The conversation ends, and the putschist can go on with his treasonous work.”[19]

Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones have elaborated: “The exercise fulfills several different goals. It acts as a cover for the small compartmentalized government terrorists to carry out their operation without the larger security services becoming aware of what they’re doing, and, more importantly, if they get caught during the attack or after with any incriminating evidence they can just claim that they were just taking part in the exercise.”[20]

Clearly, the plane crash drills at the Pentagon, and the possibility of another such drill having been scheduled for 9/11, raise serious concerns. Considering their similarity to the actual attack, the question of whether they fulfilled the kind of malicious and duplicitous purpose described above needs looking into. Yet the 9/11 Commission Report makes no mention of the three pre-9/11 Pentagon exercises, and fails to consider the possibility of a similar exercise occurring on September 11. This is additional proof that, five years after the event, we are yet to have a proper investigation into the attacks of 9/11.


Matthew Everett has written two major articles about U.S. government complicity in 9/11 for the Journal of Psychohistory, and also contributes to the Complete 9/11 Timeline.


For a comprehensive list of 9/11-related training exercises, including those taking place on September 11 itself, see the “Military Exercises Up to 9/11” page of Paul Thompson’s Complete 911 Timeline:


[2] “September 11, 2001.” The New Yorker, September 24, 2001.


[3] Steven Komarow and Tom Squitieri, “NORAD had drills of jets as weapons.” USA Today, April 18, 2004.


[4] “National Security Advisor Holds Press Briefing.” Office of the Press Secretary, May 16, 2002.


[5] Dennis Ryan, “Contingency Planning: Pentagon MASCAL Exercise Simulates Scenarios in Preparing for Emergencies.” MDW News Service, November 3, 2000.

http://www.mdw.army.mil/content/anmviewer.asp?a=290; Andy Lines, “Pentagon Chiefs Planned for Jet Attack.” Daily Mirror, May 24, 2002.


[6] “Crisis Response Puts Agencies On Path To Better Coordination.” U.S. Medicine, January 2002.


[7] Matt Mientka, “Pentagon Medics Trained For Strike.” U.S. Medicine, October 2001.


[8] Soldiers to the Rescue: The Medical Response to the Pentagon Attack. Washington, D.C.: Office of Medical History, September 2004, p. 18.


[9] Gen. Lance Lord, “A year ago, a lifetime ago.” The Beam, September 13, 2002.


[10]Paul Wolfowitz, Memorandum for Secretaries of the Military Departments, et al., “Operations Security Throughout the Department of Defense.” Department of Defense, October 18, 2001.


[11] “Statement of Capt. Charles J. Leidig, Jr. Commandant of Midshipmen United States Naval Academy Before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.” June 17, 2004.

http://www.9-11commission.gov/hearings/hearing12/leidig_statement.pdf; National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Twelfth Public Hearing, June 17, 2004.


[12] Soldiers to the Rescue: The Medical Response to the Pentagon Attack, p. 39.

[13] Ibid., p. 7.

[14] David Maraniss, “September 11, 2001: Steve Miller Ate a Scone, Sheila Moody Did Paperwork, Edmund Glazer Boarded a Plane: Portrait of a Day That Began in Routine and Ended in Ashes.” Washington Post, September 16, 2001.


[15] Chuck Hagee, “An Engineer’s Expertise Joins a Firefighter’s Nightmare.” The Connection Newspapers, September 5, 2002.


[16] Alan Wallace, “A Fire Fighter’s Story.” First Due News, April 17, 2003.

http://web.archive.org/web/20030417074321/http://www.oapff.com/first-due.htm; Spc. Jennifer Lilly and Chris Walz, “Local heroes: FMMC fire department reflects on attacks.” Pentagram, November 2, 2001.

http://www.dcmilitary.com/army/pentagram/6_44/local_news/11746-1.html; Michael J. Ward, “Attack on the Pentagon: The initial fire & EMS response.” JEMS, April 2002.


[17] Quoted in Michael C. Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2004, p. 367.

[18] “After-Action Report on the Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon.” Arlington County, July 2002, p. A-20.

http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/Fire/edu/about/FireEduAboutAfterReport.aspx; Stephen Murphy, “ARFF Crews Respond to the Front Line at Pentagon.” NFPA Journal, November 1, 2001.


[19] Webster Griffin Tarpley, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA. Joshua Tree: Progressive Press, 2005, pp. 204-205.

[20] Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones, “London Underground Bombing ‘Exercises’ Took Place at Same Time as Real Attack: Culpability cover scenario echoes 9/11 wargames.” Prison Planet, July 13, 2005.


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Matthew Everett
Matthew Everett is an astute 9/11 researcher. His highly thought-provoking articles offer meticulous research. He has also been a historycommons.org contributor.