When Key Program staff member Mary Margaret Herman audited the Team Building class with DoD Cohort 48 in February, she mentioned that an earlier cohort gave her a challenge coin. Since we didn’t have one to give her, we offered a tour of the Pentagon instead. When Mary Margaret and five Key Program co-workers did visit on Friday, March 25, they got much more than a private tour: They met the Secretary of Defense who gave each of them his personal challenge coin.
Three cohort members served as escorts for the Pentagon tour: Beth Sieloff, Paul Kastner, and me. In addition to Mary Margaret, the visitors included our cohort “den mothers” Julie Stokes and Maria Barra along with Jennifer Tether, Alanna Casselle, and Samantha Tan. The tour began with some history: The Pentagon building was declared a National Historic Building on its 50th birthday in 1992. When General Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff officiated at the Pentagon’s golden anniversary, he invited two people who had been working in the building since the day it opened to join him on stage. That telephone operator and custodial worker have since retired.
We visited the 9/11 Memorial Chapel located at the point where American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 on the morning of September 11, 2001, killing all on board and 125 people in the building. Black panels on the memorial wall are engraved with names of all 184 victims whose photos and biographies are printed in two display books. Through the windows we could see the outside Pentagon 9/11 Memorial where 184 cantilevered benches are organized by birth year of the victims. Each bench is inscribed with a victim’s name and is lit from below with a small pool of moving water.
As we walked along the outermost E-Ring where the senior Department of Defense leaders and their staffs work, we saw Secretary Ashton Carter leave his office with his military aide and come toward us. We introduced ourselves, and the Secretary of Defense handed everyone his coin before moving on. Our next stop was the Pentagon press conference room where our visitors sat at the table on stage where Secretary Carter and JCS Chairman General Dunford had briefed the press earlier that morning. Finally, we visited the Correspondents Corridor where we met Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News who has been at the Pentagon 30 years and was there on September 11, 2001, reporting on the military's response to the terror attacks in New York, when the Pentagon was hit.
After Mary Margaret added to her cap collection with a Pentagon baseball hat from Fort America, we left the building to visit the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial and end our tour. DoD Cohort 48 ended its tour of duty with the Key Program at its graduation on June 22.