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DC Everest grad watched 9/11 attacks from Kosovo

Updated: Sep. 11, 2021 at 5:00 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Those old enough certainly remember where they were when the U.S. was attacked on 9/11.

D.C. Everest graduate Phillip Southworth had just returned to his base in Kosovo after being out on foot patrol. As Southworth recalls, “it was very surreal.”

“Shock. Then it became anger,” he said.

Then-Corporal Phillip Southworth was stationed in Kosovo on a peace-keeping mission with the National Guard’s 101st Airborne Division.

“We went on high alert and prepared for any other terrorist-type activities,” said Southworth, who is Executive Officer of 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion.

One phone and one tv on the base, he and his fellow soldiers watched in the mess tent as the events unfolded.

“There was a lot of questions that we had. Like, how could this have happened? What could we have done to prevent this?”

It’s roughly 5-1/2 hours by plane from Kosovo to Afghanistan. they wondered if their peace mission would quickly turn to combat.

“A lot of the soldiers wanted to get right over there,” Southworth said. “But then, as the days went by kind of like, ‘hey, let’s take a step back. We’re not ready to go over there. We haven’t been trained for that kind of mission.’ We were trained to do a peace-keeping mission in Kosovo. Not to go fight a war against Al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Before 9/11, Southworth had only heard of Al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

“I was really surprised they could put together something quite that elaborate and extensive and carry it out.”

He found himself in Iraq in May of 2003, two months after the U.S. invaded. Southworth even took time to pose lounging on Saddam Hussein’s throne in Baghdad that December. These days he’s a Captain stationed in Wausau. In the 20 years since that horrific day, the mission of the National Guard has evolved.

“We went from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve. Meaning, we’re the first people or the first soldiers the United States government calls if the active duty can’t complete a mission.”

Always standing at the ready.

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