As the nation commemorates the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, many remember the changes it brought in their lives and the world.
Montgomery County Sheriff David White had always wanted to serve in the military. A visit to a weekend training session in 1998 was all it took to convince him to join the Arkansas Air National Guard 188th Fighter Wing Security Forces.
Three years later he was working for the Arkadelphia Police Department and had just finished a 12 hour shift. He explained that he had guard drill that weekend and had spent the weekend in the field at Fort Chaffee. He came home and worked a 12 hour shift before going to bed Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. he went to bed with the intention of washing his weekend clothes that afternoon, but his plans changed when he was awoken to the news that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.
He admitted that he didn’t think that much about it at first, citing an incident where a Cessna airplane had struck one of the towers accidently. News of the second tower and the Pentagon being hit changed his mind.
“When I heard Pentagon I got up. I’m fixing to have to wash my clothes and get ready to go because I knew I was going to get called.” White recalled.
The phone rang as he was getting out of bed notifying him that this was not an exercise or a drill, but he was being called to active duty. Three hours later he arrived at Fort Chaffee dirty clothes in tow. His unit began training for a trip to Afghanistan doing land navigation, extra physical training refining their job duty skills.
A month later he was sent to Tuscon, Arizona to help secure the southern border with Mexico. He returned to Arkansas just before Christmas to prepare for their deployment overseas.
He shared that Muslim terrorists don’t get along with the Mexican drug cartel, but they would use them to get into the United States. He stated that they stopped people from India, China, Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries as they crossed the southern border with Mexican nationals entering the United States illegally.
March 2002 White and his Unit are prepared to go to Afghanistan, but are sent to Qatar to Al Udeid Air Base. The air base was built by then Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad, to house U.S. and British troops to help protect them from Iraq.
The 188th was the second team on the ground with orders to secure the largest air base in the world for American troops. He remembers a lot of hostility from the locals toward U.S. servicemen. He pointed out that a lot of Saudis were there and 15 of the 19 terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia.
He stated that the reason for the Saudi involvement was because several Saudis sided with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan during their war with the Soviet supported Afghani government. The United States protection offered to Saudi Arabia from Iraq robbed Osama Bin Laden and the Mujahideen the opportunity to fill that role. White stated that this is what led to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
While serving in Qatar he served with troops from the United Kingdom and France. White was assigned to a quick reaction force that was responsible for the protection of visiting dignitaries and generals when they visited.
He remembered one incident where his unit had to rescue four Navy seamen who had been caught up in anti-American protests. They also responded to individuals shooting at military personnel.
The attacks on 9/11 changed the way police officers do their jobs stateside. White explained that when he returned after five months in Qatar officers were trained to monitor behavior exhibited by bombers. He shared that he had received training from Israelis in this area. Active shooter training became “self-sacrificing shooter” training.
He added that they had to learn to recognize people casing a building to bomb it instead of robbing it. His military training helped prepare him in ways to monitor his surroundings and people you meet.
White recounted an incident that happened after he returned to work in Arkadelphia. He was on patrol near Henderson State University when he saw a dark skinned man driving a car with Texas tags parked on the side of the road photographing buildings on campus. He followed the car off campus and approached the vehicle to investigate. The man driving the car was smiling and explained that he was a police officer from Texas. After verifying the man’s identity they discussed how their jobs had changed after 9/11.
White spent eight years in the Arkansas Air National Guard and admitted that he got to do a lot of things he would never have done otherwise. However, when 9/11 happened he said “It’s like, okay now it’s our turn.”
He talked about World War II soldiers and how they are called the “Greatest Generation.” White stated that he would never dispute that, but he felt like when 9/11 happened it was his generation’s turn. He was ready to do whatever needed to be done to stop the terrorist threat facing our nation.
White’s thoughts turned to recent events in Afghanistan. He stated that he believes the withdrawal was poorly handled, but he did not believe any of the American lives lost in that country were in vain.
White added that he believes there is a lack of understanding among the American public that we, the United States, didn’t declare war on anyone. The Islamic extremists declared war on the United States and other non-Muslim countries as part of a Jihad, or holy war.
“They declared war on us. And your at war whether you like it or not.” He said.
Remembering 9/11; Sheriff recounts call to active duty