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Arts on view
Up in the air
by Robert W. Smith
|Pilot Ken Masson 89 banks for a landing on his aircraft carrier.
When Kenneth Masson 89 was growing up in Greenwich, Conn., he could look out his bedroom window and see the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
On September 11, 2001, at his home in Washington State, he was getting ready for what should have been an ordinary day at work, he recalls. Within a month he was halfway around the world, on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and he was really at work: flying combat missions over Afghanistan.
Over the next six months the Navy lieutenant commander flew forty-three six-hour night combat missions in his EA-6B Prowler, equipped with a tactical jammer. Using the Prowlers radar and communications interference, we took out the eyes and ears of the enemy so our F-14s and F-18s could come in and drop their bombs, he explains. The majority of our work in Afghanistan was exploiting communications and protecting our Special Forces on the ground.
Last January, Masson was back at home in Whidbey Island, Wash., with his wife, Allison Schick Masson 89, and their three children. There the senior squadron pilot took time to reflect on his service.
Masson, who entered the Navys Officer Candidate School after his sophomore year as an economics major, has been flying combat missions since 1993, over Iraq, Somalia, and Kosovo. But the Afghanistan assignment was his first time fighting as a direct result of an attack on the United States. It had more profound personal meaning for me than the other missions, he says.
Each time he came home from those other difficult deployments, Masson says, I was a little more jaded. There I was, sacrificing an awful lot, without hearing a heck of a lot of acknowledgement or respect for the job the military was doing. But after 9/11, he says, people didnt seem to see us so much as political tools but as defenders standing up for the countrys freedom. And thats why he joined the Navy in the first place, he says: To serve and make this country a safer, better place.
Masson hopes soon to be serving in a very different capacity. Hes been nominated for a fellowship at the White House, where hed spend a year on the staff of a cabinet member, learning the inner workings of government. Unless the recent U.S.-led invasion sends him up in his Prowler. Again. In combat. Over Iraq.
Bob Smith is a freelance writer and public-relations consultant in East Greenbush, N.Y.
|Editors note: Other Skidmorites in the military include JAG lawyer Robert Resnick 88 and Marine David Bordorf 89, as well as activated Army reservists Adam Bock 03 and Yamilett Picchardo 03.