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Analysis: After Boston, Renewing the Call for Security and Vigilance


By Frederick Finch, James Herdt, Alford McMichael, Vince Patton II and Jack Tilley

Could an everyday citizen have averted the attack on our American way of life at the finish line of the Boston Marathon six weeks ago? While the answer can’t turn back the clock and change the horrific outcome of a low level bomb filled with shrapnel, concealed in a nylon backpack, it is, from our perspective as the former highest ranking enlisted leaders in each of the five military services, unqualifiedly, yes. 

We are living in a time when every single American can and must play a personal role in homeland and personal security. It is a simple, yet profound obligation to our republic: to be alert, and in the most objective and responsible way to follow the guidance of the Department of Homeland Security:  if you see something, say something. Say it to 911, say it Law Enforcement, say it to a fireman, but do say it. First responders count on and welcome our partnership in protecting what is most near and dear to all of us – our American freedom.

As the tragedies of this attack continue to develop, and we witness the pain and loss that all the families, the runners, the first responders and the City of Boston must bear, our hearts ache but our resolve to protect and preserve our security stiffens.

Make no mistake. This is not second-guessing about what might have been.  This is a commitment and a plea to take the violence of this tragedy and to honor the victims by turning it into a teachable moment and legacy for all of us.  It’s time for a stronger partnership between our military, law enforcement and all citizens.  We tweet, post, text and communicate 24/7.  This is a request to use those same skills to say something if something doesn’t look or feel right.  A dropped backpack, a suitcase left behind, any suspicious activity should be communicated to us.

In partnership with the American Security Council Foundation, local Sheriffs and other nonprofits, Pinnacle Five is leading the public education effort to give everyone the knowledge and tools they need to guard against national, homeland and cyber security threats. The first-ever toolkit of this kind will be shared with schools, communities, Rotaries, Chambers, and anyone who is willing to learn more about how to protect our security.  We are committed to highlighting and elevating the relationship and the sacred trust that can and does exist between our military, law enforcement and communities everywhere.

Unfortunately it’s too late to avert the attack that occurred last month in Boston. But it’s not too late to step up our caring, our vigilance, our attentiveness, and our situational awareness as a community. We will need to do it together, and with the courage and resolve that is at the heart of the American spirit. As former military leaders, we can honestly say, we need and want your partnership.

About Pinnacle Five

Pinnacle Five is an elite group of men who served together as the highest ranking enlisted leaders in each of the five military services. They advised the Joint Chiefs of Staff and helped prepare, lead, and support the collective U.S. forces during a period that included the 9/11 attacks. Today, Pinnacle Five advocates about the true value of veterans through advocacy, speaking, training and consulting services.  They are members of the Senior Advisory Board of the American Security Council Foundation and are spokespersons for their new public education campaign Step Up America:  The Call to Good Citizenship.

These are the five Senior Enlisted who served together from 1998-2002.  “Pinnacle” refers to the pinnacle of accomplishment that each service represents:

  • Jack Tilley, 12th Sergeant Major of the Army (Ret.)
  • Alford McMichael, 14th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (Ret.)
  • James Herdt, 9th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (Ret.)
  • Frederick “Jim” Finch, 13th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (Ret.)
  • Vince Patton III,  8th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (Ret.)

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