Panetta to Visit 9/11 Attack Sites

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.

They are:

— 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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)