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TERRE HAUTE, Ind.--On 9/11 two fighter pilots based in Terre Haute, with the 181st Fighter Wing, ended up escorting what may be the world’s most well-known aircraft, Air Force One. First, the men were called into service to help make sure the skies were clear of all other planes.

“We did do some pre-preparation knowing that something was probably going to happen and we might be required to fly,” said retired Col. Chris Colbert. He and his partner had seen the attack on TV, but did not know what the military response would be.

“Here in Terre Haute, Indiana, we happen to be the only munitions storage facility in the Midwest for Air National Guard units,” he said.

That meant that they worked on the only base in the area that was capable of sending up armed aircraft. His commander ordered he and partner Tom Sims to load up and hit the sky. Their mission was still unclear.

“We knew that we were going to take off from Terre Haute and we were going to fly to Chicago,” said Colbert. Once there the men flew their F-16s in an “orbit” of Chicago, protecting the skyscrapers, and thus the people, from further attack from the air.

“When we took off that day, our mission was not to escort Air Force One,” said Colbert. But, he and Sims got a message from their controller that they were needed to escort an aircraft identified as “Angel Flight”. At the time, that was a code term for Air Force One, while she was in the air.

Colbert said it is not documented that he and Sims protected Air Force One that day, “It’s just something that happened.”

Pres. Bush had been flown from Florida to Louisiana, and then to Nebraska, for his protection.

“The president had decided very quickly, I guess, in Nebraska, to not stay there and to leave,” he said. “Basically the president decided to leave and they left their escort airplanes in Nebraska, or behind.”

Colbert says the 181st deployed several times to the Middle East, following 9/11. He said he believes his story, and the story of the 181st, is no different from any other military unit on that day.

Except, most others didn’t escort and protect the president.