In 1983 I joined the Marine Corps as a part of the delayed entry program and a special project conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency known as Program 224. They took the name from the number of recruits involved in the program. Program 224 was a government program designed to take ordinary Marines and train them to be operational in the event they were needed. Even though I did not leave for boot camp until after graduation the summer of 1985, I would meet with my handler at least once a month and then again during the summer and winter breaks from school. It was at this time I would meet with others like me in the area and we would study codes, communication skills, weapons and marksmanship.
The goal of Program 224 was to develop a Marine that could assimilate himself inside a Marine Corps unit and operate as one of them without notice. To function as a mediocre Marine not bringing awareness of himself or his abilities to his fellow Marines and command….until called upon. The training continued once on active duty. Specialized weaponry training, surveillance and evasion, survival training and finally SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training. They went to great lengths to hide this from the units and fellow Marines in which I was stationed with….my friends.
In 1987 I was contacted by my handler Mr Jacobs. I was to schedule leave (vacation) the following month for two weeks, purchase plane tickets to travel back home to visit my family. I packed my bags picked up my ticket and headed to the Palm Springs airport as anyone would who was leaving for a trip. I approached the counter and passed my I.D. and my ticket voucher to the ticket agent. She handed me some papers a ticket and a boarding pass. She said my plane would be leaving through Gate 224 and would be located at the end of Terminal B. I arrived at my gate and found 2 others waiting. We didn’t speak as we waited. The same women who gave me my ticket arrived at the gate and opened the door and down the ramp we headed towards a plane with no markings awaiting on the tarmac. It was an all white jet about the size of a small passenger airliner. Once inside I proceeded to my assigned seat. There were only the 3 of us on the plane but each seated apart as to not speak to another, the window blinds were closed and we were seated in the middle seats. Our flight seemed to last about 3-4 hours and when we arrived out our destination it was dark. As the door opened we stepped out on the tarmac that was lit up by bright lights from every direction. I couldn’t determine where we were by our surroundings but I could smell the desert air as though we never left our origin.
On the tarmac I was greeted by Mr Jacobs and ushered away from my 2 travel companions. I was taken to a building where Mr Jacobs showed his ID and we walked through a heavily guarded doorway. Once inside we walked down a dim lit hallway that reminded me of a hospital hallway in a horror movie. We walked through another doorway guarded only by a tall lanky man in a suit. The room had a conference style table in the middle and was surrounded by chairs. I could tell that someone was seated at the back of the table but because of the poor lighting I could not make out his face. I was instructed to sit at a seat in front of me. As I took my seat, I was handed an envelope and was instructed to open it. An overhead slide came on the screen across from me…the slide was that of the same face that was on the picture inside the envelope I had just opened. Once the slide came on the gentleman at the end of the table began to speak. The slides began to changed showing the man from different views and various looks. I was given a description of height, weight, hair color, with or without a mustache/beard. I was also briefed about a meeting that would be taking place between this man and another “high value target”.
My instruction; Stand over-watch to insure the meeting takes place eliminate hostiles that appear.
The briefing ended, Mr Jacobs and I left the room leaving the gentleman still seated. We proceeded to another room where I packed my gear; a light pack (20lbs)…water, radio, side arm with 6 mags, my riffle…bolt action Remington 700 with suppressor and Leupold scope and plenty of Lapua .308 Winchester rounds capable of reaching targets 1000 meters away and 2 Snicker bars. I was met by my spotter….I was told to be a Silver Olympian in the 84 games. We didn’t talk much as we awaited transportation by helo to our staging area….from which point we had 3 hours to hump (hike or walk) to our nest (position of concealment that provides line of site to our target). We set up position 620 meters away from a makeshift runway in the desert….and wait. We ranged the runway at various points and several avenues of approach that could be used by hostiles. My spotter takes first watch as I rest. The meeting was to take place in approximately 3 hours. I awake and re-range the kill points taking in account for wind, trajectory and spin drift. I wake my spotter, as I hear the plane approach. He checks his figures again against mine and we make the adjustments. Mr Jacobs gives us the stand-by as the plane descends; in the distance I can see a vehicle approach. I can see 3 men, one of which is the face of the man in my envelope. The plane lands as the “High Value Target” emerges from the door the car pulls up. The 3 men get out and proceed to meet the other. They talk for a few moments as 1 man returns to retrieve a package from the car…he returns. They inspect the package shake hands and as they turn towards their vehicle I hear the first shot…then the second. My spotter calls out the targets….I locate, range fire target down. He calls another target…I locate range adjust windage and elevation…this one will be hard. In one second I take my breath relax aim stop squeeze target down.
The “High Value” Target is down and one associate in the car is down along with 2 hostiles. The car races off as the plane starts it’s engines a missile impacts on the plane and it erupts in a fire ball. Mr Jacobs signals “burn it down, burn it down” (code to take out the car) I shift positions range the target fire the driver is down, the car overturns. Target down I radio…as I hear a helo approach; it lands near the car. A Team gets out take up positions and retrieve the package…another shot..this time from the Team….the man in my photo is down. I continue to over-watch as they clean up the sight. A heavy lift helicopter lands, they hook up the car and fly off. The team boards their helo and leave the area. Mr Jacobs signals again….Buster I say again Buster as I pull my side arm and fire one shot into my spotters head. I pack up, clean my nest and head to the extraction point.
After debrief I return to my base as if I just came home from leave. It was then that I realize….nothing will be the same. It has all been paper targets until that point. It was at this moment that I changed, I know longer felt remorse, guilt nor did I have that moral trigger that said this may be wrong. I did and acted as my government told me as they trained me to do….it was at that point that something in me died. I don’t feel pain, compassion is something I no longer feel. Feel…that’s funny, I can’t seem to feel anything anymore!
Its up to you to determine the Fiction Truths the Exaggerations