The Mason Pierce blog contains brief episodes from Agent Mason Pierce's career as a US Air Force Special Forces operative before he joins the CIA and his early years with the Central Intelligence Agency. These precede the as of yet unpublished book Mason Pierce: Assassination.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Installment 2- Tragedy

August 20, 2006- Iraqi Desert
The ride in the Humvee was surprisingly comfortable. Despite this, however, Mason could not relax. This would be his first time going solo--previously, he had always just been an assistant accompanying a more experienced Combat Control Team Member. This time, however, Mason was on his own, and the lives of all the Delta Force agents lay in his hands. He felt guilty--while the Delta Force operatives would be risking their necks, he would be observing everything from a safe distance. The operatives were required to rush into the compound after it had been hit with the missile in the event that those inside did not surrender. Mason did not speak a word the entire trip. He felt as if he were in a trance. Never had he envisioned that his first solo mission would be this mentally taxing. He had been anxiously awaiting the day when he would be that man that everybody was counting on--he now realized how foolish he had been.

At last they arrived at their desired position. However, it was hard to tell what position this was, exactly. They seemed to be just in the middle of the desert, surrounded by nothing but dirt, insects, and the occasional shrub. While all but two of the agents suited up for the hike towards the mountain compound (two operatives had been selected to stay behind with Mason in the event that he needed any assistance). Mason quickly went to work unpacking his radio, which was neatly packed into a durable plastic case, and within a few minutes had a microcosmic air traffic control station set up. Once he had ensured that everything was working properly, he dialed the frequency to that of the fighter pilot's and spoke the call sign into the radio.

"Yankee Seven Three, this is Air Force CCT controller Pierce, Sierra Three Niner, operating with Operation Pursuit Delta Force Squadron B Assault, please state position."

The A-10 pilot's voice crackled over the radio, "Roger that, Pierce. Location is seventeen nautical miles out, 250 knots at 5,000 feet and descending. Heading is 280 degrees."

"Roger that. Descend and maintain 3,000. I will instruct you further once visual contact has been made."

It was not long before a small grey speck appeared in the sky. Mason looked at the approaching fighter and then at the mountain which contained the compound. He did a few calculations in his head and then once again spoke into the radio.

"Descend to 400 feet above ground level, approximately 2,000. Slow speed to 220 knots and assume a bearing of 275 degrees. Wait for instructions to fire."

"Roger. Descend to 400 above ground. Maintain 220 knots and 275 degrees."

"Papa Three, readback correct."

The distant whine of the A-10's dual jet engines grew louder and eventually became a loud roar as the attack aircraft passed over Mason's and the Delta Force Operators' heads.

"Arm weapon, fire at approximately one nautical mile from target." said Mason.

"Arming missile. Fire at one nautical mile."

Mason's hand-held shortwave radio suddenly cracked on. He heard the frantic voice of one of the Delta Force agents, but the static was concealing the words. All that was coming through was garbled giberish.

"Azzzrmmt ... frrrzzt... wwwllllmmn... zzzt...rrrrrlsggg..."

"What? Tune your radio. I can't understand you," said Mason. He looked at the Thunderbolt--it was nearly within firing distance. The radio transmission could be an urgent order concerning the aircraft, and Mason could potentially need to immediately order the pilot to abort. On the other hand, if it was just a simple progress update, he could set back and even ruin the operation. Just when he had to make the critical decision, however, the static subsided, allowing him to perceive what the operator was saying. Unfortunately, he did not like what he heard.

"Abort mizzzflllll! fzzztt... has woman zzrrt... hostage... gun... blrrrrizzztt... -peat, abort missile!"

After quickly yelling "Roger" into the walkie-talkie, Mason immediately dropped it and grabbed for the ATC radio.

"Abort! They have at least one hostage! Abort firing sequence! Abort! Abort!"

"Roger. Aborting firing." Mason breathed a sigh of relief. One of his greatest fears on this mission had been having women and children die along with the Al Qaeda members, and that potential tragedy had been averted. However, just as he began to relax, it dawned on him that if a man was standing outside holding a gun to a hostage's head, the Delta Force operators' presence was known. Mason reached for his walkie-talkie and wheeled around to the direction of the operators...

Right on cue, the ground where the operators were standing erupted into a great cloud of dust and flame.  Several were immediately blown to smithereens while the remaining were flung dead across the sand. "Get down and move!" Mason sharply barked to the two operatives standing with him as gunfire rang out. A bullet blasted through the chest of one, killing him instantly, but Mason and the other quickly jumped down and began to crawl away.

They did not get very far before a second, closer explosion sent a cloud of Iraqi desert sand drifting over them. The pair quickly realized that the situation was simply too dangerous to attempt to crawl from and both simultaneously jumped up and broke into a run. However, they did not get more than two steps forwards when a third explosion, this one very nearby occurred. Mason was knocked nearly senseless from the heat and force of the blast and was thrown through the air. He felt himself hit the ground and then saw his vision quietly fade away as he drifted into unconsciousness.

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