You do not get to The Dan without The Vince. It is a measure of how much those two men were regarded by their co-workers. But first things first.
Our world changed the day that Dan and Vince- the men- perished along with 123 other Pentagon workers. Five other Naval Intelligence people died in the attack, along with 64 passengers on Flight 77, and of course the scumbag murderers.
America went to war- or at least its military went to war, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. The events of the next decade shaped all of us, but had unique impact on those who wear the uniform or directly support them.
The Regional Combatant Command in charge of the operations halfway around the world is US Central Command, headquartered at McDill AFB in Tampa, Florida. Otis Vincent Tolbert- Vince- served there until 2000, when he and Sheri and the kids moved to Virginia.
As my pal J.Todd said at the time, “Vince was a hero long before the 11th of September. Vince was a hero every single day. He was a hero to his family, his friends and his professional peers.”
After the attack, the rapid increase in the tempo of operations revealed that the facilities were inadequate to the task, and a new Joint Intelligence Facility was programmed.
Sheri Tolbert maintained roots in Tampa, though, and Vince’s comrades in Florida viewed his service at CENTCOM with a loving and proprietary interest. Along the way to completion of the new building, his pals lobbied successfully for Building 565 to be known as something more personal.
That is a mouthful, and of course a shorter and fonder nickname was found. Building 565 is now known simply as “The Vince.”
It is a fitting name, and one that keeps Vince alive in the memories of those who knew him, and those who have come after.
CDR Bob Poor thought that CDR Dan Shanower, the chief of IP on that awful day, ought to be remembered, too.
As part of the refurbishment of the Navy Space and Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, the main conference room was to be upgraded to accommodate sophisticated videoteleconfercencing and information sharing capabilities.
Now a civilian program executive in the SPAWAR’s Office of Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence, Bob had known Dan since 1985, and later when we all served together across the bay in USS Coronado (AGF-11). He saw his opportunity. He suggested that the conference room be dedicated to Dan’s memory, and it is completely appropriate, since the room is used for a variety of meetings and briefings, including our briefings to visiting senior Naval Intelligence Officers.
While the conference room has a formal name, like Building 565 at McDill, it also has one that like The Vince conveys the intimacy we shared with an passionate, patriotic, articulate and infectiously funny man.
Bob’s plan came to fruition last week, with the dedication of The Dan. The plan had been months in the making.
SPAWARSYSCOM is located in Old Town San Diego, on the pacific Highway north of Lindbergh Field, and the old Ryan Aircraft plant where the Lone Eagle’s Spirit of St. Louis had been manufactured over a three-month period prior to the flight that changed the world.
The ceremony on 14 October was elegant, short and sweet. Dan’s parents Pat and Don were in attendance, along with
his brother Jon, several cousins and a dozen retired Naval Intelligence Officers who served with him.
The program featured an invocation, a little discussion of the artifacts/decorations in the room, an informal “roundtable” where Dan’s shipmates shared a sea stories. At the conclusion there was a moment of silence, and a benediction.
The Commander Daniel F. Shanower Conference Room will honor his memory, and be part of the shared recollection that will keep his memory fresh.
It will, of course, be known more simply as The Dan.
Copyright 2011 Vic Socotra