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News | June 25, 2019

History Proves, Force Protection is Everyone’s Responsibility

By Cory Angell, DLA Distribution Public Affairs

It was 23 years ago, June 25, 1996, Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia and Air Force Sgt. Tim Moore was watching the movie Heat with his fellow Airman and teammates. Little did he know, he was about to experience the deadly terrorist attack at Khobar Towers when terrorists detonated a fuel truck packed with 5,000 pounds of explosives near the complex and then jumped into waiting vehicles, escaping just before detonation. Nineteen U.S. service members were killed, and some 500 people were injured. “It is one of those things that is just seared into my memory,” said Moore. "It’s something I will never forget.”

Moore describes the moment at 9:58 p.m. local time when he heard the loudest explosion of his life. The explosion was so loud that it was heard 20 miles away and left a crater 85 feet wide and 35 feet deep.

“It is hard to describe a shockwave but I describe it like pixilated air,” said Moore. “It went left then in a millisecond it suddenly went right. The glass from sliding doors exploded and we all flew into the wall behind us.”

Moore said that he was unconscious for some time but he doesn’t remember how long. When he awoke, his ears were ringing so badly that he couldn’t hear.

“It was like…I’m yelling at you, you’re yelling at me and we can see each others lips moving but can’t hear anything being said.”
It was this fateful terrorist attack at Khobar Towers that changed everything the military does for anti-terrorism and force protection. It also forever changed Moore who now serves as the anti-terrorism force protection officer at Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna.

“Airman 1st Class Chris Lester and I were with our families at the airport when we all were departing and it was the first time he was deploying,” said Moore. “I told his mother I would look out for him.”

Moore was in a building near building 131 which was the most badly damaged. Immediately following the explosion Moore and others searched for injured and dead. He was told that Lester had been injured and evacuated to a local hospital; that is also what Lester’s mother was told.

“Unfortunately we learned a lot of lessons back then and accountability was one of them,” said Moore. “My wife was called and told I couldn’t be accounted for.”

Moore said that Lester had actually been killed in the blast and there was a case of mistaken identity in the chaos that ensued in the aftermath of the blast.

“Accountability of personnel during an event is crucial and that was one of the lessons learned,” said Moore.  “It’s also important to remember what it was like back then. We didn’t have cell phones or all the computer connectivity that we have now.”

Moore said in the aftermath they were working security around the clock and didn’t even call home for days. When Tom Brokaw, former NBC news anchor, visited to report on the event, he was shocked how little the military members knew about the world view of the event and that they hadn’t called their families yet.

“He really is a part of the greatest generation,” said Moore. He pulled out a satellite telephone and let all of us call home just to say we were OK.”

Moore emphasized that the attack forever changed him but it is also why he is so passionate about his job.

“The late Army Gen. Wayne Downing was assigned the task of conducting an assessment of facts and circumstances surrounding the event and came up with 32 recommendations,” said Moore. “There is no coincidence that as an anti-terrorism/force protection officer,I look at 32 areas to protect this base.”

Moore trains and educates people on the importance of force protection and anti-terrorism. His experience from Khobar Towers help him relay the importance of force protection.

He tells the story of two men on guard that night that saw the bomber park the truck and run to a getaway vehicle. The men began an evacuation of the build helping save lives.

“We tend to think force protection is the job of the police and we live in a gated community,” said Moore. “The fact is that your security is your responsibility and if you see something you need to say something.”

Moore said that his experience from 23 years ago still sticks with him and it makes his job more personal.

“My job is to make sure that never happens again,” said Moore.