Attack on America: September 11, 2001 and the U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. COAST GUARD ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Operation Noble Eagle Documentation Project
Interviewee: Rear Admiral Jeffrey J. Hathaway, USCG, Director, Navy Command Center & Counter-Drug Division (OPNAV N32)
Interviewer: PAC Peter Capelotti, USCGR
Date of Interview: June 20, 2002
Q: Sir, if you could give me a sense of your career path as a Coast Guard officer. I've talked to a couple other admirals; one of which being [Rear] Admiral [James S.] Carmichael [USCG] who I believe was in this position as well.
RADM Hathaway: Correct.
Q: What is it that puts a Coast Guard Admiral here in this position working with the Navy Command Center?
RADM Hathaway: The requirements of a Coast Guard flag working on the Navy Operations Staff are vested in having an extensive operational background. So the Coast Guard flag officers that have been assigned here in the past have either had an extensive afloat background or aviation background. My background happens to be in afloat operations and so I think that is why the Commandant [Admiral James M. Loy] chose me to come over and work on the Navy Operations Staff here.
Q: When was that choice made?
RADM Hathaway: I arrived here in late June of 2001 and replaced [Rear] Admiral [Ralph D.] Utley [USCG] who is a Coast Guard aviator. So he had his extensive operational background in aviation.
The Coast Guard flag position here is not a liaison position. It fills a Navy flag billet that would otherwise be filled, I assume, by a Navy flag officer. The Navy is in the position of having more flag positions than it has authority to make flag officers. So actually the Coast Guard flag being here, under my understanding, came as a result of a conversation between the previous CNO [Chief of Naval Operations; ADM Jay L. Johnson, USN was CNO from 1996 to 2000; ADM Vern Clark, USN, became CNO in 2000] and the previous Commandant of the Coast Guard [ADM Robert Kramek, USCG] over the fact that having a Coast Guard flag officer on the staff here would give the Coast Guard some experience in Navy operations and would give some visibility to senior Coast Guard within the Navy staff, but would fill the Navy need by having a senior officer; a senior manager, be able to fill one of the Navy flag positions that the Navy could not fill itself.
Q: Does this have anything to do with gaining experience for potential wartime absorption into the Navy, or is there any of that in this?
RADM Hathaway: There certainly is in that it gives, in this case, a flag member of the Coast Guard visibility into how the Navy does business on a daily basis inside the Navy Pentagon. The historical use of the Coast Guard flag had been to be involved in Navy current operations, and in that particular division included oversight of the Navy's Command Center, which is the CNO's bellybutton out to the Fleet. You also were in charge of the Coast Guard flag, traditionally been in charge of keeping track of Fleet movements for the Navy; where the carrier battle groups were deployed and why, etc. I inherited those positions and that set of responsibilities when I relieved Admiral Utley, including day-to-day oversight of the Navy Command Center. At the time that I arrived here the N3/N5 Staff - Operations and Plans and Policies is one directorate - was looking at reorganizing itself and one of the issues at hand was a division; N34; Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection. It was one of those vacant flag positions that the Navy and the CNO specifically had made a commitment to put a flag officer in charge of Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection efforts as a single bellybutton inside the OpNav [Naval Operations] Staff, but had not been able to do it. It goes back to the classic case of more flag positions than flag officers to go around. As part of the reorganization I volunteered to take over N34 and keep parts of what had morphed into then the N32 organization; Interagency Support, which includes all of the Navy's support to the interagency counter-drug efforts, and I still have that today. The Navy Command Center, however, was decided could be broken off from my basket of responsibilities and moved over into another N3 directorate.
Q: And N3 is Operations?
RADM Hathaway: It's Operations but another one-star colleague of mine.
RADM Hathaway: And all those decisions were taken in July; about mid-July of last year, and we were in the process of moving to that new organization as 9/11 approached. The new division that was going to absorb the Command Center was, however as 9/11 approached, without flag leadership. The flag officer that was going to absorb it was suddenly reassigned to a battlegroup himself, and so I kept oversight of the Navy Command Center in my basket of responsibilities awaiting a flag replacement so I could neatly hand off the Command Center. We were also in the process of moving the Command Center from old traditional spaces into the recently renovated wedge of the Pentagon. In fact the entire N3/N5 Staff, as 9/11 approached, moved in mass into the new wedge and the Command Center was physically displaced from the rest of the Staff. It was down on the first deck of the renovated wedge. The rest of the N3/N5 Staff was on the fourth deck and displaced laterally; meaning they weren't right on top of each other. And that's where we stood. Everyone had moved in. The Navy Command Center had stood up and was functioning on 9/11 and I was now probably two months into also having full responsibility for the Navy Anti-Terrorism Force Protection, or the N34 Division.
Q: So you had already absorbed N34 on 9/11?
RADM Hathaway: Yes, and I was holding onto the Command Center awaiting a turnover with a flag officer who was enroute to that position. My Navy Counterdrug Staff; that N32 part of my responsibilities which I was retaining, were physically located in the Navy Command Center as well. As we were shopping around for space, because of the nature of their work, it was felt best to locate them in the Navy Command Center. So that part of my N32 Division was physically located in the Navy Command Center as well.
On 9/11, that morning, I was not in the Pentagon. I had been asked to head up a Coast Guard personnel board. I started the day in the Pentagon, and in fact was in the Command Center and getting the morning briefs as . . .
Q: What time do you usually come in in the morning? You must be an early riser.
RADM Hathaway: The day starts fairly early around here. I typically arrive about 0545. The morning briefs come off at seven.
Q: Does the CNO get briefed fairly early, or was that part of your bailiwick when you came on was briefing him where the forces were and what they were doing?
RADM Hathaway: That brief is put together by the Navy Command Center. It gets briefed to the N3/N5, who's a three-star, and then he takes that brief . . .
Q: Is that one person; N3/N5, it's one three star?
RADM Hathaway: Yes, its one individual. It's one three star. On 9/11 it was one Vice Admiral [Timothy J.] Keating who has since departed. He is now Commander of the Fifth Fleet Naval Forces in the CentCom [U.S. Central Command] AOR [Area of Responsibility] over in the Middle East. But it's the N3/N5, that three-star, who then takes the brief up to the CNO as part of a larger staff brief at the three-star and above level that the CNO typically has on any given morning.
So we went through the morning routine of briefings. Folks had been put on task, both in the Command Center and my counterdrug folks in the Command Center, and I departed for Coast Guard Headquarters about 0800 that morning.
Q: Are there any other Coast Guard personnel in the Command Center? Are you the only one?
RADM Hathaway: I am the only one. There was one other Coast Guard officer assigned within the N3/N5 Directorate. He's in the N5 world. So he was in that staff that was up on the fourth deck of the renovated wedge, not down in the Command Center, and he is still serving. I believe that he was out of town on the 11th on TAD [Temporary Active Duty].
Q: Do you remember anything unusual about that morning?
RADM Hathaway: It was a normal morning. There was nothing unusual about it. When I departed the Pentagon the first airliner had not yet flown into the World Trade Center. I got over to Coast Guard Headquarters and was somewhat sequestered, because of my board duties, from access to other things.
Q: Sure. Where was the board being held?
RADM Hathaway: Down on the first deck of Coast Guard Headquarters in Personnel Command boardroom spaces where you are purposely sequestered from the general population so that you're not bothered.
Q: What was the board for?
RADM Hathaway: It was for selection for senior 0-5s and 0-6s for Senior Service School. I was President of the Board.
Obviously as the World Trade Center unfolded we started getting reports being brought in. I called over to the Navy Command Center to get their take on it. They were obviously keeping the Navy chain of command, up through the CNO, advised as to what was going on. They were watching, I'm sure, the events unfold in the Command Center on the large screen TVs. Everything was getting live CNN coverage. The next thing I know is someone came into the boardroom and said, Admiral Hathaway, something's happened at the Pentagon. There's smoke coming up from the Pentagon. I ran over to a window across the way and looked out towards the Pentagon and saw the smoke coming up. I didn't know what it was at that point, and then actually the first CNN report came in that an airliner had flown into the Pentagon. I knew by looking over there that the impact area had to have been close to the Navy population in the Pentagon. I immediately tried to call over to the Command Center and got just dead phone lines. That was an indicator something was wrong. After a while I was able - I have another office over at the Washington Navy Yard at Naval Criminal Investigative Service Headquarters, which is associated with my Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection duties - I was able to get my folks over there. They confirmed for me that in fact the airliner had flown into the Pentagon and that it appeared that the Navy Command Center had been destroyed, and that the greater Navy Staff was not hit directly, but all those spaces had all been evacuated. Eventually all those spaces were destroyed. So the entire N3/N5 Staff found itself basically as orphans. All of our office space, all of our computer systems, all of our files; historical files, were eventually consumed in the firefighting efforts. There was lots of flooding in the Pentagon as they poured in firefighting water, even up on the fourth floor. In fact the fourth deck was reported to me . . . and I never did go back to those spaces.
Q: Where was your office physically?
RADM Hathaway: I had a small office in the Navy Command Center. My flag office was up on the fourth floor, but I had a small office down in the Command Center as well because I had folks down there. So from a personal possessions point of view I had . . .
Q: Where were all your mementos of your career and things like that?
RADM Hathaway: They were in both places. I would say two-thirds of them were in the fourth deck office, but it was as completely destroyed as everything in the Navy Command Center.
In the Navy Command Center, when the airliner flew in, there were approximately 50 people in the Command Center at the time. Forty-two of them were killed outright. Twenty seven of those 42 worked directly for me. They were either command center watchstanders; permanent party that worked for me, or counterdrug folks that worked for me. The difference between the 42 and the 27; there were some intelligence folks that were down there, some folks that are meteorological support to the CNO were down there that did not - although I worked with them - did not report directly to me, but they were physically housed in the Command Center spaces. So there were not a lot of survivors as the Command Center was on the first floor. The airliner made impact literally almost right into the spaces, so the spaces were almost immediately inundated with jet fuel and fires. So folks were either killed outright or were burned in the first few seconds after impact. Some of the folks that did survive out of there were the counterdrug folks that worked for me, although some were killed as well.
But some of the miraculous escape stories were astounding. Some of the civilian folks that worked for me; just about all of them, if not all of them, had a military background. They were either retired or ex-military. But one gentleman in particular who is in his upper 60s who works budget issues for the Navy Counterdrug program; far and away the oldest person working in the Command Center, was actually one of the survivors. His miracle was that when the airliner hit, all the lights went out. It was total darkness; fire, smoke, and the sprinkler system worked but it was overwhelmed by the fire . So you had water coming down on you as well and no one had any idea which way to go. One of the problems was everyone had recently moved into those spaces so no one was quite acclimated yet to fire exits, let alone just getting out of the space, which was now totally dark, and everything had been moved around by the impact. What a relief for him. A wall behind him just fell down and he was able to just walk out of the ruble, and by virtual of the wall falling down he was able to walk into a small courtyard and get away from the fire.
Q: At what point that morning did this all start to dawn on you that this was a catastrophe, not only a national catastrophe but one that was going to affect you very personally?
RADM Hathaway: It was apparent to me after I found out that the second plane had flown into the World Trade Center that the first one was not an accident, and that there was some sort of a coordinated attack. No one knew where it was coming from. It could have been domestic terrorists for all we knew. No one knew why.
Q: So you had no solid information at that point that - and I say this in your background of ATFP [Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection]. This is, after all, your bailiwick, I guess, to know about these things or to do force protection type things. But there was no indication that we were going to get whacked like this?
RADM Hathaway: No, none. There were general indicators in the air of general threats; nothing that was in my role that would have indicated hijacked airliners INCONUS [in the continental U.S.]. It just was not there. From a Navy point of view the Navy Force Protection focus was OUTCONUS [outside the continental U.S.] for the most part. There was very little attention being paid to anti-terrorism efforts INCONUS for the Navy. We were mostly focused on the fallout from the USS Cole [DDG-67] bombing in Yemen. So most of my efforts up to 9/11 were really focused OUTCONUS.
In the aftermath of the plane flying into the Pentagon and my being able to get in touch with my folks in the Navy Yard, I found out that the CNO, the VCNO [Vice Chief of Naval Operations; Admiral William J. Fallon, USN] and the Secretary of the Navy [SECNAV; the Honorable Gordon R. England] - the Undersecretary I believe was out of town - were all being taken to the Navy Yard by their personal security detachments - which all work for me in my N34 hat. I am also in charge of personal security detachments for all high-risk individuals in the Navy and in SECNAV - were all being taken over to the Navy Yard and specifically they were being taken to NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] Headquarters.
Q: What is that, NCIS?
RADM Hathaway: NCIS Headquarters; the Navy Criminal Investigative Service.
Q: Uh hum. So they were taken from here over to there?
RADM Hathaway: Yeah, which is a secure building . It was not the official backup. There was not a plan in place that if somebody flew into the Pentagon where would we take folks.
Q: Is there now?
RADM Hathaway: There is, yes. In fact the plans, again, of continuity of operations actually belong to me.
Q: Were those things that you worked on afterwards?
RADM Hathaway: There were things that were worked on before and it was a plan that has been totally rewritten since with now a focus on threats as we know them INCONUS.
Q: Yeah. I'd like to go back. I guess the Board shut down. Were you called, tasked, or did you just leave Headquarters? Where did you go from Headquarters, and before you left did you talk to any of the senior leadership there, I mean the Commandant? Admiral Loy must have had some awareness that this was your area of operations. Did you talk to any of the senior leadership before you left Headquarters?
RADM Hathaway: I did not. One side bar issue was obviously the Commandant was concerned about the Coast Guard's population in the Pentagon and immediately had folks doing a roster call so to speak of folks; an accountability check for the Coasties over in the Pentagon. They were not able to account for me. Part of that is the rather secretive nature of board membership. I was in Coast Guard Headquarters but . . .
Q: Nobody knew it.
RADM Hathaway: . . . senior leadership didn't know that. So the first report that the Commandant got was that all the Coasties had been accounted for except for Admiral Hathaway, and at that point folks knew that the plane had flown right into the Navy's spaces. So there was great concern.
Q: He would have no reason to not believe that that's where you were that morning because you were there after all.
RADM Hathaway: Right. I mean there were others in Headquarters obviously that knew that I was in Headquarters and that finally became known.
I departed. I spoke with, I believe it was the Chief at "W" [Assistant Commandant for Human Resources, RADM Fred L. Ames, USCG] and also with the CO [commanding officer] in the Personnel Command [CGPC; CAPT Steven E. Froehlich, USCG] that actually convenes the Boards, and I said, I'm not going to be able to continue serving, and the Board was put on a short hiatus. They eventually found another Coast Guard flag officer in Coast Guard Headquarters to take over the board and it eventually finished. It took a couple of days longer. I went over to the Navy Yard.
Q: Do you remember how you got over there?
RADM Hathaway: I drove. I drove myself through the traffic. The Navy Yard was, like most military installations, had gone to Force Protection Condition Delta. It was totally shut down, which means no one comes in, no one goes out. They knew they had the CNO and the SECNAV in there. I literally had to scream at the folks to get them to open the gates to let me in, which was rather funny. Of course being in a Coast Guard uniform that didn't help. But at the time I had not been around long enough and was not a routine enough face that they recognized me, let alone knowing that I was the Head of Anti-Terrorism Force Protection. But I got myself through the gate, went to NCIS Headquarters, and ironically when I got to my office found that the Secretary of the Navy had been put in my office over there. That is the first time that I met Secretary England; the Secretary of the Navy, is when I walked into my office and he stood up and said, oh I'm sorry. Am I in your office? I said, Mr. Secretary, it's your office right now, and I introduced myself and told him what I did. I still remember, he said, you've got a big job ahead of you, and he said, how did this all happen Jeff? I said, Mr. Secretary, I have no idea, but we've got to figure that out. And with him and the CNO we set up - because of the secure spaces in NCIS Headquarters - we were able to have secure VTCs [secure video-teleconferences] and did so throughout the rest of the day and the next day as well. Obviously there was . . .
Q: And VTCs are what?
RADM Hathaway: Secure video teleconferences. The CNO and SECNAV were called over to the White House at various times, but we spent the time posturing the Navy in a Force Protection way; what posture do we need to have the Navy in, and that's how we were focusing our efforts. Meanwhile, as I told you, virtually all of the OpNav Staff, which included this N3/N5 Directorate, were displaced out of the Pentagon because there was not a good Pentagon plan for the occasion of a massive attack on the Pentagon like we had; there were no common mustering areas. So for the most part there was an accounting, as folks could, for people. Folks eventually left the area; many of them to just go home. I think part of that was due to announcements just saying get out of the area.
But eventually the OpNav Staff relocated up to the Navy Annex, which sits up above the Pentagon over by Arlington Cemetery, and in the days and weeks after 9/11 that was our temporary home. I, for weeks, did not have a desk, did not have a telephone and did not have a computer. I lived with about three cell phones strapped to me and we just walked around conducting Navy business. I did have the luxury of having an office over in the Navy Yard to be able to go to. But the N3/N5 Staff was now gearing up for the worldwide war on terrorism as well as dealing with having lost 42 of its own, having lost all of our records and everything else. So we were basically starting from scratch.
Q: So there was no duplication of that anywhere?
RADM Hathaway: Eventually computer records were able to be partially restored. A lot of historical paper files were gone forever. But there was, amid all the mass confusion, a certain calmness and sense of purpose in both protecting the Navy and the country from the next attack and getting ready for the war, which I think the decision happened almost simultaneous with the attack. I think the Pentagon knew that the next war was now here, so our efforts were divided mightily. We tried to focus obviously on taking care of the N3/N5 family and dealing with the holes in our own staffing; the fact that the entire watch section in the Command Center had been wiped out. The Navy no longer had a Command Center, no longer had that node to be able to reach out to the Fleet, gather information and provide it to the CNO. There was a great emphasize on standing that up as quickly as possible in the Marine Corps Command Center, which is quite frankly a miniature version; a very old miniature version of the Navy Command Center, especially the brand new Navy Command Center. But our sea service brethren - the other side of the Secretary of the Navy - very graciously moved themselves into one corner of their Command Center and allowed the Navy to come in and hunker down in there for what turned out to be months.
Q: Do you remember your first trip back to the Pentagon, when you first came back?
RADM Hathaway: My first trip back to the spaces in the Pentagon was about three days after the attack. We were allowed, in chem/bio [chemical/biological protection] suits, to go in to recover classified material that was in the Command Center. So I was part of the team that went back in to do that. As the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] . . . it was now a crime scene, and the primary restrictions of going into any of those spaces all came from the FBI declaration of it being a Federal crime scene. So any access was controlled through the FBI. But as they were sifting through the rubble, as they could get in as fire areas were being cooled down, they reported finding massive amounts of classified material, and so they realized that they needed to get people in there to account for it. I couldn't recognize the Navy Command Center.
Q: Was there anything you did recognize?
RADM Hathaway: I recognized parts of what was our brand new briefing auditorium, just only because there were probably 60 very nice reclining chairs in there. But I just recognized pieces and parts of the chairs. All the furniture . . . I mean everything was totally obliterated and I was just amazed that anybody made it out of that space alive. Those were the thoughts going through my mind. The classified material were things that had been either out and around, because the Command Center is a SCIF [Special Compartmented Information Facility], or had been safes that had literally been either melted open or blown open. So most of the classified material that we had was burnt, so it was gone. But there were still bits and pieces. So again, it was about three days afterwards . . .
Q: Well it might surprise you to know that we have a DC3 in Gitmo [Guantanamo Bay] with our Port Security Unit who's a Washington firefighter who was on the roof all day on 9/11, and one of his vivid memories was of seeing . . . the only thing he recognized was pages of an airline magazine.
RADM Hathaway: Yeah.
Q: So of all the things to survive from that impact, he said - and I'll never forget it - was looking down into that hole and just seeing this airline magazine floating around.
RADM Hathaway: Some of the stories that, again, of some of the survivors: one of the Navy 0-6s that works for me was just returning to the Pentagon. He was walking through South Parking and the airliner literally flew right over him. All he remembers is dropping flat on his stomach in the parking lot and he said that as the airliner flew into the building it was eerily quiet. He said he hardly remembers hearing the impact of the airliner flying into the Pentagon itself, but he heard the airliner coming. He looked up and said it was like the whole sky was filled with the plane and he thought it was coming right down on top of him.
My director of the counterdrug staff who was in the Pentagon was a retired Navy officer - a GS-15 civilian now - and was standing in his office that he shared with another one of his civilian employees who was a very recently retired Navy 0-6 - who's last active duty billet had been as Admiral Utley's deputy and he also served Admiral Carmichael as his deputy in the N32 Division, and when he retired he applied for and was hired into a civilian position in the Navy Counterdrug Office. But those two gentlemen were standing in their office where they had a television and were watching CNN when the airliner flew into the Pentagon. The GS-15, who survived but was trapped, thinks that the television in fact fell on top of the retired 0-6 and either knocked him unconscious or killed him outright. The GS-15 was trapped under fallen debris, couldn't get out, and the fire was all around him. He was in the hospital for quite sometime because of smoke and heat inhalation damage to his lungs . Someone unbeknown to him appeared, and bracing his back against the bulkhead, was able to push the desk off of him enough so he could get out. And he was able to, I think, crawl out through that same opening that the older gentleman I told you about earlier had been able to get out, even though he was severely injured. Captain Punches, as folks still called him - although now in a civilian status - was never found.
Q: I think both Admiral Utley and Admiral Carmichael mentioned that a deputy who was sort of a conduit from them down, and then everybody's favorite officer and so forth is . . .
RADM Hathaway: Yeah, a great gentleman; a P-3 [Orion] pilot by trade. But even though those two gentlemen were literally standing shoulder to shoulder watching, one got out alive and the other one was never located, not any trace.
Q: Even to this day they have never found anything?
RADM Hathaway: They found nothing. He was one of the very last funeral services because his spouse wanted to wait, hoping that some trace of him would be found. Nothing ever was found, which was very sad. The next few months for me were almost a nightmare of activity in sort of tending to the families of the dead. We didn't have many injured. Those that were injured were released fairly quickly from the hospital or died fairly quickly. There were only one or two members that were in between that survived, but had very long hospital stays.
Q: You had a succession of funerals in addition to having to fight a new war and pick up the pieces and rebuild your Command Center.
RADM Hathaway: Yeah. We obviously paid great attention to burying the dead so to speak. As I have told folks, I've learned intimate knowledge of Arlington Cemetery, leading too many funeral caissons from the Chapel to the burial sites. Virtually everyone that was killed and is now buried at Arlington were buried in a plot that looks out to that side of the Pentagon that was hit by the airliner. So every time we'd march to the funeral site we were looking at, in many cases, the early funerals still under the open gapping hole of the Pentagon, which truly had an impact on me.
I think one of the toughest times for me was when Captain Punches' son, who was 19; he was at the time a freshman at George Mason where I have a 19 year old son who's a freshman at George Mason as well. Captain Punches had a son and a daughter who were a couple years older than the 19 year old. But one day while we were still up in the Navy Annex someone came to me and said that Captain Punches' son was outside and wanted to see me. So I went outside the building; outside the wire so to speak, and he was on the sidewalk outside the Navy Annex, and I said, geez, what brought you here? He said, Admiral, he said, my mom sent me to find my dad and told me not to come back until I found him, and this was about a week after the attack, roughly a week. We walked up to a bluff across the street that looked down on the Pentagon, which hundred of folks, I think, choose that vantage point for looking down. But I explained to him that, I said, your dad's down there. I said, what's left of him. I said, as you know he's not there and we need to help your mom understand that. We talked for a while as to whether they were ever going to find any human remains or not and what that meant to his mom. But we talked for a long time. He just needed to know . . . his mom had sent him on a quest and he needed to know what to tell her. So that was probably one of the lowest points for me. I've been very close to the Punches' family since then. I had not been there long enough to be nearly as close as Admiral Utley or Admiral Carmichael who served for a period of a year or more with him. I was just getting to know, as they called him, Captain Jack, when 9/11 came around. But that experience was replicated time and time again with other families as they were trying to come to grips with that instantaneous loss on 9/11.
Q: I think it's safe to say that you're probably the only flag officer in the history of the Coast Guard who's had to deal with a situation like this.
RADM Hathaway: Well this exact situation, yes.
Q: I mean I know there are commanders in the Coast Guard that have had units which have taken losses. But I don't think there's ever been a flag officer in this situation where his direct command has been hit so hard and so instantaneously.
RADM Hathaway: That can be fair to say. I mean the Coast Guard has had tragedies where we have instantaneously lost large members of the crew of a vessel; the Blackthorn [WAGL-391].
RADM Hathaway: But in terms of a flag officer having purview over a wide number of people and having that kind of devastation, it is probably quite possibly a first. And it was very tough because at the same time . . .
Q: Have you found yourself having to make a conscious effort to place it in some kind of perspective since it is so unique?
RADM Hathaway: Yes. I mean I will say to the sake of the Navy and the Coast Guard, that the Navy, very early on, provided all types of support to folks; both the families of the deceased and all of the workmates who had to deal with this. And the Coast Guard as well, you know, it reached out to me to ensure that I was doing okay so to speak. I think everybody had to reach their own peace so to speak. The high level of activity for me helped, but I found myself being personally affected at odd times. You'd wake up in the middle of the night and it would hit you.
Q: Do you have any close friends in the flag corps?
RADM Hathaway: Yes.
Q: People that you can call up?
RADM Hathaway: Yeah, and I talk to a lot of them and we had some good discussions.
Q: Do you look to any existing or recently retired flags as mentors? Do they look up on you and see how you are doing, or doesn't the flag corps work like that?
RADM Hathaway: Yeah, the flag corps does work like that. It's much akin to any sort of specialty group in the Coast Guard, although your flag career starts and ends fairly quickly.
RADM Hathaway: But it suffices to say I certainly was surrounded by a group of friends and colleagues in the Coast Guard that provided all measure of any kind of support that I would need, as well as family and friends. But it went for the whole Navy family. And I saw that everyone had to deal with it in their own way. For some folks it was they absolutely positively had to be at every funeral. For some they found it very difficult to attend funerals. For some they just couldn't come back to the workplace for quite some time. For others they had to be back in the workplace right away.
Q: Uh hum. How about you? I mean you didn't have much choice. You had to get to work regardless.
RADM Hathaway: I didn't have much choice, and actually for me, again, the activity level helped me deal with it. We, for awhile, were standing a 24-hour watch that included a flag officer, and I found myself pulling the share of the mid watches so to speak and sitting there in a very quiet Navy Annex office in the middle of the night. I had time to reflect on what was going on, and those were some slow and sort of demoralizing nights, as you have time sitting there by yourself. It's tough to reach out to anybody at two/three o'clock in the morning to ponder the loss of folks and the anger that you have, but you're not really able to do anything except plan to make sure that it doesn't happen again. But we've moved on from that.
Q: One of the questions I ask all the flag officers is if in a time of crisis you have a self-awareness that you have to act a certain way. In other words, people don't look at you as a normal person. You're after all an admiral, and to the rest of us you're demigods, if not outright gods. Certainly you and [Rear] Admiral [Richard E.] Bennis [Commander, Coast Guard Activities New York; Captain of the Port of New York; OCMI] were sort of in the vortex of these currents that were flowing around September, October and November. Did you sense people seeing how you were acting, especially since you were new onboard; seeing how's the Admiral going to react, and did you feel a need to present a certain persona?
RADM Hathaway: The answer to that is yes. To say very truthfully, I think that I personally saw both the best and the worst in leadership in the hours and the weeks following 9/11. The rank-in-file wanted to line up behind somebody that could put what happened in some sort of context and say definitively this is what we have to do, here's how we're going to do it, now follow me. There were some groups of leaders, some individuals, who reverted to just screaming at people without any thought as to what's going through this individual's mind that I'm yelling at and telling him to go do something. Lots of confrontations in the hallway so to speak. But on the other hand I also saw folks that rose to the occasion, that were true leaders.
For me, one of the first thoughts that went through my mind - arching back to an instance that happened to me when I was a young lieutenant commander and I was actually at my very first afloat command - was the Coast Guard cutter Citrus [WLB/WMEC-300]. A 180-foot buoy tender that had been painted white and converted to a medium endurance cutter. But it was my first command and I was sailing out of Coos Bay, Oregon, and it was probably the best job I ever had in the Coast Guard. But we were underway one day. It was in November. It was right before Thanksgiving. I remember we were in fact supposed to be home for Thanksgiving but a storm roared up off the Oregon/Washington coast and lots of fishing boats were caught out in the storm and they could not get back in because they couldn't get across the bar. So I made a decision that we were going to stay underway because there were folks out there, and if somebody got in trouble we'd have to get across the bar that was keeping folks from getting into port to begin with. So I decided that we would stay underway and we would celebrate Thanksgiving underway, even though we hadn't brought any turkeys with us. I was riding out the storm, really going no place in particular. We were more or less station keeping and we were hit by a rogue wave. In fact I just was reading an article yesterday about rogue waves and wrote a short e-mail back to the author of the article who says there's a great thing that rages as to whether rogue waves really exist or not. And I said, in my Coast Guard career I've had two rouge wave incidents. But the first one was then, in this rouge swell . . .
Q: And this is just in the middle of all the other swells. There's just one that's . . .
RADM Hathaway: One that was bigger.
Q: It's just so out of character that it's unusual.
RADM Hathaway: It came in at a different angle, twice as big as all the others, and in our case we were sliding down the backside of one swell and I was sitting in the cabin sort of holding on. But there's two portholes that look forward out across the buoy deck and out towards the bow, and the first thing I heard were people on the bridge right above me screaming out, oh my God! I stood up and I looked out one of the portholes and saw just a giant wall of water coming towards the ship. We were at an angle coming down the backside of a swell and this other swell was coming in at about a 45-degree angle. At that moment right before impact that's literally all you could see. The swell broke all the way up to the top of the mast because it carried away the radar antennas. My reaction at the time was I literally turned and started running towards the back of the cabin because I thought that my entire bulkhead would collapse. We got hit by the swell. I remember getting knocked down and I got back up on my feet, ran out of the cabin and got up to the bridge. I thought I was going to see daylight above me. I assumed that perhaps the whole top of the superstructure had been ripped off, but it hadn't. I got up to the bridge. People were, themselves, getting up off the deck and the first impression I had is when I looked out in front of us and I saw the wake of a ship out in front of us. I saw all this debris in the water and the first thought through my mind was my God, something has sunk out here. What it was is that this rogue swell had taken that 1,800-ton Coast Guard cutter and moved it backwards several hundred yards and we were now slowly steaming back through our own debris field. All of our lifejacket lockers had exploded and all of our Kapok lifejackets were floating around me. I looked down and saw Coast Guard cutter Citrus stenciled on the back of them and that was my first clue that it was all stuff off our Coast Guard cutter. Literally exterior aluminum ladders had been ripped off and they were the air pockets and the aluminum stanchions were keeping the things floating. All of our small boats, our RHIs [rigid-hull inflatable boat] and my MSBs [motor surf boat] had been ripped off and were out there just floating. And then the phone calls started; sound powered phones started ringing. What transpired was, first a report of flooding and then a report of fire, because you had things shorting out. So people were seeing smoke. Hatches had been blown open, and so we were taking flooding below decks. It's the worst mariner's nightmare; flooding and fire both at the same time. At that time I remember standing on the bridge looking around and everybody was looking at me, you know, what is the Captain going to do? I looked at the helmsman who was, I think was number two in junior status. He had just qualified as a Helmsman, recently out of boot camp, and he was looking at me, and I'll never forget the look in his eyes. It was the look of adjunct fear. He looked at me and I was looking at him and he said to me, he said, "Captain, are we going to die?" And I remember what raced through my mind then was everything that I do, everything I've learned about being a leader, I had to do it right now. So that was the first memory for me where I knew I had to get it right, because there was a whole group of people that were looking to me. It was the same feeling I had on 9/11. I saw the same look in people's eyes. They were scared. Lots of people were scared. I was scared. No one knew if there was another airliner, if there was going to be a chem/bio attack. Lots of people said we shouldn't be here. We should be getting the hell out of Dodge. But I remember back to that first instance as a young lieutenant commander with that helmsman looking at me and asking if he was going to die. It's not germane what I told him, but that very same feeling was brought back to me in the hours after 9/11. When folks were, once again, with that same look in their eyes, looking for somebody that would tell them everything's going to be okay and here's what we're going to do. So at least I had some experience to draw on.
Q: It's nice to be a lieutenant commander all over again, isn't it?
RADM Hathaway: Yeah, it's nice to be a lieutenant commander all over again. So I'll leave it to others to comment on whether I was one of those that people took comfort in or not.
Q: Paul Fussell has a quote - a military historian - about the role of the officer is to seem what you would be, and that essentially in a crisis you want to act a certain way so you'll be imitated. Because the alternative is, as you say, panic and chaos, and the ship going down.
I guess the only place I can go from there is to ask you what you've been doing since then.
(END OF SESSION ONE)
Q: This whole attack, the whole response to it has put Anti-Terrorism Force Protection . . . people are talking about it at breakfast now and nobody knew what these letters even stood for eight months ago. So all of a sudden you've been catapulted into a key position, and really in the whole military. Have you thought about it in those terms and are you more comfortable now than you were, say on September 10th, that the Force Protection and Anti-Terrorism is in better shape than it was then?
RADM Hathaway: Well we're definitely in better shape than we were on the 10th of September, or I'll say post-11 September. I can really only speak for the Navy and the efforts that have occurred within the Navy. The spaces that you're in today, these are the quarters that we moved into when we came back from the Navy Annex. These are spaces that had been abandoned prior to 9/11 and never to be moved back into again. They were to be all torn down, gutted and were going to be part of the second wedge renovation project. Needless to say, people were not too tender in the way that they left spaces and they had no problem ripping up carpet and punching holes in the bulkheads, etc. And that's where we are now; mid-June of 2002, still.
Q: Is the plan to put the Command Center back and put the N3/N5 back into that wedge?
RADM Hathaway: The Navy Command Center has in fact been resurrected and is in an inner-core part of the Pentagon. It's on an "A" ring instead of . . .
Q: And it was in the "E" Ring?
RADM Hathaway: It was on the "D" Ring.
RADM Hathaway: It was on the "D" Ring, second to the outside. It's now on the "A" Ring and is fully stood up again. The N3/N5 Directorate spaces are still being renovated. We will eventually move back into the spaces that we had moved into prior to 9/11 that were destroyed in the fire and the flooding aftermath of 9/11, but probably not until later this calendar year. So we continue to operate out of very temporary spaces here. I don't have an office here. What I have is, as I call it, a pooka. Like everybody else, I have a desk and a chair and a laptop computer.
Q: They're treating you like a historian, Sir. (Laughter)
RADM Hathaway: Yes. So we have learned a whole new way of doing business here. The whole notion of comfort has gone out the window. We make do with what we have. This office that we're in right here is the Deputy J3/J5's office. This is where Rear Admiral [Joseph J.] Krol [Jr.] would be if we actually had a three-star. Admiral Keating left without a relief being designated, and so Admiral Krol, as the acting, has moved into his office. If we had the three-star we wouldn't even have this little conference room here in N3/N5.
Q: Does your work inter-finger at all with Coast Guard Force Protection?
RADM Hathaway: Yeah.
Q: What kind of interaction do you have with, let's say, the MARDEF [Maritime Defense] folks or with the folks protecting . . . after 9/11 there was something of a movement to get naval ships toward ports and so forth . . . want to use their anti-aircraft capabilities and so forth and so on?
RADM Hathaway: Navy ATFP is all about Navy protecting Navy people, boats and assets. But that interfaces obviously because the Navy, like the Coast Guard, covets its waterside property. What we do in a port environment where the Coast Guard has the lead in port security and what the Navy's doing to protect Coast Guard facilities is obviously of great interest to the Coast Guard and vice versa. The Navy's very interested in Coast Guard capabilities and what they're doing because the Navy knows that if there is some sort of attack in a port environment it could totally cripple the ability of naval forces to sortie into or out of a facility. Likewise the Coast Guard knows that an attack on a Navy facility could cripple the whole port environment. So we're connected at the hip in terms of me, as the Director of Anti-Terrorism Force Protection for the Navy, keeping the Coast Guard advised of the Navy capabilities; mostly INCONUS, although my job is a worldwide job in terms of Navy Force Protection. The Coast Guard doesn't quite care what I'm doing to protect Navy ships in Singapore however. Their job is more Homeland Security related.
Q: But does that have any kind of - in your anti-terrorism hat - does that inter-finger at all with, say, this idea of pushing the frontier out to places like Singapore to see what's going on when they're unloading ships in Singapore?
RADM Hathaway: That whole notion and those tasks are not necessarily in my lane of traffic. The notion of Maritime Domain Awareness; something that the Coast Guard needs to accomplish to be able to provide for adequate port security in its role as the lead Federal agency in the maritime component of Homeland Security, that is a Coast Guard lead that Navy, among others, follow. The Coast Guard needs more afloat assets. They come to the Navy and the Coast Guard winds up with tactical control of a 170-foot patrol craft, Navy crews, Coast Guard LEDETs [Law Enforcement Detachments], under the tactical control of the Coast Guard to prosecute Homeland Security.
There's also Homeland Defense, which is a different animal from Homeland Security. Homeland Security is approached from a law enforcement standpoint. Homeland Defense on the other hand is the extension of the classic U.S. military might, but in protection of the homeland. Most of our military force projection is done overseas and the Worldwide War on Terrorism is an example of that. Defense of the Homeland has not been high priority for this maritime island nation. We haven't had to worry about that. Now we do. In the maritime component of Homeland Defense it's a Navy lead, Coast Guard follow; much akin to the traditional relationship that the Coast Guard has with the Navy in terms of providing Coast Guard assets for defense operations. Most of those have been overseas; a Coast Guard 378 [WHEC, a 378-foot high endurance cutter] deploying with a battle group in NAVEUR [Naval Command Europe] or NAVCENT [Navy Central Command] AORs. Port Security units being deployed overseas. Interestingly, one interface is, as I said, I provide ATFP for the Navy worldwide. That means providing force protection for daily Navy operations around the world. Not necessarily in an OPLAN [Operational Plan] context, i.e., Korea; the balloon goes up in Korea. You pull OPLANs off the shelf and in there are embedded the need for a certain number of Coast Guard Port Security Units. We, the Navy, found ourselves short of waterside force protection capability in Bahrain for example where we have a large number of naval units coming and going. The Navy did not have the generic capability to provide for that, even though we're now creating the capability. The Navy is creating a Mobile Security Force of about 800 people who will be Coast Guard PSU [Port Security Unit] like in their capability to provide for daily Navy Force Protection around the world. So we bought a Coast Guard PSU. I funded out my pot of money to deploy a Coast Guard PSU to Bahrain until the Navy could create its own generic capability. When the Navy has that capability the Coast Guard PSU will no longer be required to help support daily Navy Force Protection in and around Bahrain. I have Naval Coastal Warfare Units that are doing similar work to what we have the Coast Guard PSU in Bahrain doing, but they're doing it in the UAE for example; in Jabel Ali and Fujairah. They will be replaced by active duty Navy units here in the near future.
Q: My closest friend from my original Reserve unit is now a lieutenant in the HDC-201; Combined Coast Guard/Navy Harbor Defense Command from Newport that were over in Spain doing something. I don't know. They were sitting around for a while trying to find out where they were going. But those all fit into this whole scheme of covering the bases until the Navy gets their force protection, in essence, Navy Port Security, up and running.
RADM Hathaway: Yes. Admiral Hathaway doesn't do Homeland Defense. That is an amalgamated effort of other complements here on the Navy Staff that pay attention to that. The Navy, nor big DoD [Department of Defense], does not do Port Security per say. We support port security. We take care, as I say, selfishly, we take care of Navy taking care of Navy. There is no assumption in the Navy that the Coast Guard is going to be able to protect Navy facilities and Navy assets in CONUS the way that the Navy wants them protected.
RADM Hathaway: The Coast Guard will provide some support to that in areas that they're uniquely qualified to do; some escort duties as capital assets come and go out of port, because the Coast Guard brings some law enforcement jurisdiction to that, that DoD doesn't have. But in terms of providing the level of protection that the Navy wants, the Navy will take care of that itself, both INCONUS and OUTCONUS, to the extent that we can make deals; arrangements, with host nations, which is tricky. I have traveled virtually around the world since 9/11.
Q: I was going to ask you that; if they've chained you here or whether you've been able to see the situation on the ground around the world?
RADM Hathaway: I finally unchained myself. You can become a victim to "inside the Beltway-itis," but Fleet Commanders scream daily that their AORs are very unique in anti-terrorism and force protection and you've got to come see it. So as I stood on the deck of the Sixth Fleet's flagship; the USS LaSalle [AGF-3] in Gaeta, Italy, which is a very small, very open natural port, this huge vessel, tied up, being protected waterside by nothing more than a small line of floating buoys; a line of demarcation, not capable of stopping anything, just a line of demarcation, out across the harbor that at any given time probably had two or three hundred recreational vessels in it. Behind you the hillside rises up from the port with hundreds of homes; villas, and everyone of them, as I looked up there, a potential missile port.
Q: A potential launch point, yeah.
RADM Hathaway: And the CO of the LaSalle sitting there going, now how do I protect myself? Admiral Hathaway, you tell me how I can protect myself here. I'm unique. Then I go down to Fujairah and the UAE [United Arab Emirates], which a small little but very active port of embarkation/debarkation that the Navy's using in support of current activities, and by virtue of the arrangement we have with UAE, in that particular emirate our security forces are apt to have to be in civilian clothes. They can't be in uniform. They're trying to provide force protection for any number of Military Sealift Command ships coming and going. Some of which are refuelers for our underway-gray hulls. Some of which are picking up ammunition and other critical supplies in this little port that has this huge hilltop that looks right down on the port. While I was there, there was a bunch of local children playing up there because we don't control that. But again folks looked up and said, look Admiral Hathaway, those might not be kids tonight up there and how are we going to provide force protection for ourselves? So I've been able to travel around the world and see the unique environment that the Navy operates in - this expeditionary force that the Navy is - and trying to figure out the rubric of what's the best force protection posture that you can bring to the table for all this. The only way to do it is to actually put your feet on the ground and talk to the Fleet commanders that are out there, and the troops. I went to Bahrain and I spent time with the Coasties, which was great.
Q: Were they surprised to see the Coast Guard admiral show up?
RADM Hathaway: They were surprised and delighted . . .
Q: I'll bet.
RADM Hathaway: . . . and Bahrain had just gone from FPCON [Force Protection Condition] Charlie to Bravo, and at Charlie no one was allowed outside the wire of the base there. So for the very first time I think they went to Bravo about two days before I arrived. So for the first time in months the Coasties were actually able to go out, and my arrival was their excuse to go out and have, I'll call it a Wardroom dinner, even though the wardroom there was everyone, not just officers. So we actually had a good old Coast Guard hoedown so to speak out in there in town.
Q: Yeah, I felt bad for the guys in Gitmo having been . . . I gave a couple of lectures in Havana a few years ago. I told them, I said, you guys haven't been allowed outside the gate in 42 years. I said, you don't know what, I said, you're in Cuba but you're not in Cuba.
RADM Hathaway: No, ATFP for me extends down to Gitmo. From a positive point of view I don't operationally control anything but I am the CNO's bellybutton. When he has questions about what's our AFTP posture in Guantanamo Bay, he comes to Admiral Hathaway.
I will tell you that . . . you made the comment a few minutes ago that suddenly folks didn't know what ATFP meant. Now they're talking about it at breakfast. I think even though it was still post-Cole and that was a huge event, catastrophe, embarrassment for the Navy, they were willing to have that division headed up by a Coast Guard officer in the wake of 9/11. My sense is that's becoming increasingly uncomfortable for the Navy as I get called up to the Hill very often to talk about Navy, Navy Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection, and I have to spend the first 15 minutes describing why a Coast Guard admiral is up there, and then they go, well that's very natural. The Navy should have the Coast Guard doing its force protection. That doesn't go over well in the Navy. So they're, I think, happy with the organization that I've put together and part of it is developing a close relationship with the Navy Criminal Investigative Service that has a big part to play in ATFP. Yet on the other hand there is this, I sense an "un-comfort" level of having Navy ATFP discussed around town, whether it's with the Joint Staff, whether it's up on the Hill, whether it's representing the Navy at any number of forums having a Coast Guard officer. I was at a seminar just yesterday sponsored by the Joint Staff. It's Level 4 training. It's the highest level of force protection training that is sponsored within DoD and it's for senior commanders. It's for flags, senior 0-6s, large installation commanders and above, and we had a Navy Breakout Session. I was there to talk to the Navy Breakout Section about what's going on in Navy ATFP, and all these Khaki clad officers filed into the room and they were all shocked to see a Coast Guard officer, and they said oh, where's the Navy presentation? I said, it's right here. I found myself being asked to sit on a panel after that, back with the entire collective forum of about 200 senior officers, to talk about what's changed in your service since 9/11. A Coast Guard flag officer standing there talking about the Navy. There was no Coast Guard rep [representative] so they also asked me to talk about the Coast Guard. So I had to be very careful, and I am. I do it, I think, very well. Now and then I literally, physically say, I am taking off my Navy hat and I'm putting on my Coast Guard hat. I'm now wearing this uniform. I'll say I'm taking off my Coast Guard hat. I'm now putting on my Navy hat, and I'm khaki, and here's what I have to say about the Navy. So I make it very clear when I'm talking Navy and when I'm talking Coast Guard.
Q: Well I think that during my time spent with the PSU there's a big awareness of that dichotomy between the green Coast Guard, represented by those guys, and the blue Coast Guard.
RADM Hathaway: Right. So that is my lot in life here now, in that I suddenly find myself in a relatively high profile position on the Navy Staff and I think that the Coast Guard gets a lot of visibility because of that. It does cause the Navy some discomfort I believe. That's my personal opinion. I don't think anyone in the Navy Staff would publicly say that.
RADM Hathaway: But certainly at the working level I sense that.
Q: Where do you think this will go, assuming, as it looks now, the Coast Guard goes into a whole new security apparatus, or do you think it changes very much at all?
RADM Hathaway: In terms of?
Q: You in particular on this Staff and the relationship between the Navy and the Coast Guard in general. Do you think those relationships are going to change very much in real terms?
RADM Hathaway: I think that the relationship between the Navy and the Coast Guard is going to get closer rather than further apart. The Navy and the Coast Guard are going to have to work closer together than ever before. How it bodes for a Coast Guard flag remaining on the Navy Staff, I'm not sure, with the demands, as yet unidentified demands on the Coast Guard potentially moving into a new Executive Department. The Coast Guard is being asked to be a large player in NORTHCOM [U.S. Northern Command] as it stands up, although NORTHCOM is all about Homeland Defense, not Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection. But there will be a draw for a Coast Guard flag to go onto the J3 Staff at NORTHCOM. But overall I see the Coast Guard and Navy are going to be drawn closer together and there's going to be, at least in the short run, almost less of a distinction between what one does and the other does. The Navy right now is focused and has a full time job of trying to execute their share of the Worldwide War on Terrorism from an expeditionary point of view. That is all consuming for the Navy, and the Navy has no desire to have any part of the Coast Guard's colossal responsibility for Port Security. The Navy's primary core competence is force projection far away from home and its entire alignment of assets and infrastructure and support is for that. It is not aligned to be a close in-war fighter. All of the Navy regions INCONUS are not like Coast Guard Districts. They're not operational entities. They are administrative entities. They funnel budget money. They struggle mightily and continue to struggle mightily today INCONUS from an ATFP point of view to have an operational focus because they are not aligned that way. They're not staffed that way. So it's very difficult for them, and that to me is the best representation of how the Navy is really set up as massive maritime force projection OUTCONUS, and the Navy's being asked to do that in a big way. It doesn't have time, interest or alignment to be doing a lot in the Homeland Security arena. From a Homeland Defense the Navy does see that it does have the capability. If it comes down to an instance of, you are well aware of a bad guy who is a thousand miles out to sea but closing the U.S. coast - the classic case of solid Intel that there's 50 Al Qaeda folks and weaponry and other bad things onboard maybe a commercial merchant vessel - is that Homeland Defense or Homeland Security? In Defense of the homeland the Navy - not the Coast Guard - would have the capability to make that merchant vessel disappear a thousand miles out to sea. But if you want it to come inside 12 miles and board it and invoke some sort of law enforcement jurisdiction over it, that would be a Coast Guard mission done under Homeland Security.
Q: Of course the duality of that problem is one I presented to [Vice] Admiral [Thad W.] Allen [USCG; Commander, Atlantic Area & Fifth Coast Guard District]. I interviewed him a couple of months ago in Portsmouth and I said just that. I said, what happens when the 50 Al Qaeda guys get off the ship in New York on the morning of 9/11. They're already here. We don't know they're here, and they start cutting 41-footers in half with 50-caliber machine guns. He said, well in that case we call the guys with the gray hulls to come help us.
RADM Hathaway: I would say, in that very instance, that the Navy would be less capable of assisting in that instance than . . .
Q: Probably the New York Police Department.
RADM Hathaway: The New York Police Department. That's exactly right. The Navy doesn't have the capability to deal with those kinds of situations.
Q: Where do you - just too kind of to conclude here, Sir - where does this tour fit in with your career? When you go back to the Coast Guard where do you go back too? Where would one go from here? Like the other admirals, would you become a district commander? Where would you see this taking you?
RADM Hathaway: Well this experience I think prepares me for any number of follow-on flag assignments. If I were lucky enough to be asked to be a district commander, this is as close to a joint assignment as a Coast Guard flag officer ever gets. I am in the Navy. I have control of 2,400 Marines that compromise the Marine Corps Security Battalion, whose job in life is to support Navy force protection. So I interface with the Marines daily. I work in the joint environment on a daily basis. I interface with my Air Force and Army counterparts in the ATFP world. So in a district command concept, in terms of working with DoD folks in my AOR . . .
Q: Or governor, several governors.
RADM Hathaway: . . . or if I wound up going back to Coast Guard Headquarters into an Ops Directorate, or almost any location, I come back with a unique perspective on how DoD works. And until you are enveloped by it; if you see it from the outside . . . I thought I had a pretty good idea of how DoD works. I didn't. I still don't, but I'm learning more and more every day. When you're finally inside the organization and have to truly function from inside of it you get a great appreciation for how DoD is very different from how the rest of government works, and really where the skeletons lie, where priorities are and how to get things done.
Q: Of course another unique part of your career I could see is that you would have in a sense left the Coast Guard for this position when it was DOT [Department of Transportation] and come back to it when it was whatever they're going to call this thing.
RADM Hathaway: Quite possibly. I've had the opportunity and have been asked in the past to effectively serve outside the Coast Guard for periods of time when I was . . . I was the first Executive Assistant to the Secretary of Transportation; a job that really didn't exist until a particular DOT Secretary said I want a Coastie and I wound up doing that. I can remember Admiral [Paul] Yost [Commandant from 1986 to 1990] in front of the Secretary handing over, then young Cdr Hathaway, you know, he's yours. He does not belong to me. I am severing the blue umbilical cord. He serves you Mr. Secretary, but I give him to you with Coast Guard experience. And that is basically what the Commandant did, and does, every time he sends a Coast Guard flag over here, because we're not liaisons, but we come with a background of Coast Guard.
Q: So you don't physically work for someone at Coast Guard Headquarters?
RADM Hathaway: No.
Q: You work for the three-star.
RADM Hathaway: That's right. That's exactly right. And if there was any thought that I was somehow being controlled by or reporting on a regular basis back to anyone in the Coast Guard, that would not go over well here based on what they asked me to do. In fact I'll be very honest. I have given advice to the Navy, knowing the Coast Guard, that probably would not go over well with Coast Guard leadership in terms of . . . I'm sure some would say it would have been better if you just kept your mouth shut Admiral because, you know, I'd say, hey, if you do this the Coast Guard will pimp you, guaranteed (laughter), because we don't have the capability to do this.
Q: For some of us on the ground floor of things, we have always thought that when you were an admiral, or even a captain, that was one of the luxuries was being able to say whatever the hell you want to say and nobody can do anything about it.
RADM Hathaway: That's not necessarily true.
Q: Well do you have any final thoughts? I mean this is just an extraordinarily unique situation for an officer in general; a Coast Guard officer in particular, this last year of your life. Any final thoughts you wanted to share that you think would be relevant to someone in this position in the future; lessons that you've learned, things that you might have done, things that you did or things that you might have done differently?
RADM Hathaway: Well a couple thoughts. First of all, you never know what you're walking into when you're an admiral walking into a position or a seaman walking into a position. When I first got to this job, back in what I inherited, I was looking towards what I thought were going to be two pretty boring years.
Q: Boy did they surprise you.
RADM Hathaway: Again, as I've told you, prior to 9/11 I actively took part in the reorganization, quite frankly from a personal point of view to try and jazz up and make my time here more interesting, and I think more germane to both the Navy and the Coast Guard. What I found in the wake of 9/11 is that Coast Guard folks in general, not just the flag officers, not just the officers, but Coast Guard folks in general I think, by virtue of what we do every day are often times head and shoulders above their counterparts in terms of being able to focus on the task at hand and what has to be done, and to deal with crisis; to not lose your head, because we deal in it every day, and suddenly we're faced with it on 9/11. As I told you, I saw good and bad responses. But I saw what I thought to be a very solid response from the Coast Guard folks here in the Pentagon. I saw a solid response from the Coast Guard; the Service, to what had to be done in the wake of 9/11. When other people were meeting and arguing about what had to be done, the Coast Guard was off doing it and I was delighted to be able to say, well here's what the Coast Guard's doing. Well what do you mean? They're planning on do this? No, they're doing it right now. It was hard for folks to understand that the Coast Guard could move out and do what turned out to be the right things, the right moves, as tasked as they were, as overwhelmed as they were with the complexity of the mission at hand. So that was very heartening for me. But as I look back in those hours and weeks after 9/11 I reflected on the fact that the Coast Guard deals real well with all levels of tragedy and crisis. I felt very well prepared, felt I had a good tool kit to deal with what I was thrust into, with no anticipation that anything like that was going to happen, and I think it helped the organization over here. Because as I said, folks were looking for someone that had a sense of, you know, here's what this tragedy has done to us and here's what we've got to do to start digging ourselves out, and here's the roadmap. Now follow me and we'll go do it.
Q: Another big rogue wave.
RADM Hathaway: Another big rogue wave. Yeah, it was just a rogue wave so to speak.
Q: Admiral Sir, I want to thank you for your time and your thoughts.
RADM Hathaway: Well as the singular scribe of all this I have the utmost feelings for what you're trying to compile here.
Q: Well I hope all the flags will say that a year from now when the final product comes out. I think it was Admiral Allen who said, I think you want to stay away from kind of a GAO [General Accounting Office] type report. I said, Admiral, I'm on your side.
END OF INTERVIEW