Johnnie Vell Mason – Staff Sergeant, United States Army

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
December 21, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sergeant Johnnie V. Mason, 32, of Rio Vista, Texas, died in Al Mahmudiyah,Iraq on December 19, 2005, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV.  Mason was assigned to the 717th Ordnance Company, 184th Ordnance Battalion, 52nd Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Detachment), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.

Soldier dies while defusing bomb
Staff Sgt. Johnnie V. Mason's actions ‘heroic' by saving others
Courtesy of The Leaf-Chronicle
22 December 2005

A 101st Airborne Division soldier died in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq, Monday while he was trying to defuse a makeshift bomb, ultimately protecting the lives of other soldiers.

Staff Sergeant Johnnie V. Mason, 32, assigned to the 717th Explosive Ordnance Detachment, 101st Sustainment Brigade, was an explosive ordnance disposal supervisor. Officials say his death was heroic as he and his team disarmed one bomb as another exploded nearby.


“I hope it provides comfort in knowing that Staff Sgt. Mason's heroic actions directly resulted in saving the lives of four brothers in arms,” said 717th commander Captain Gregory J. Hirschey in an e-mailed statement from Iraq. “Seldom does one individual have such great impact on mission accomplishment such as he provided to the 717th.

“I am so proud to have served along side such a professional. The unit and I will continue to keep Staff Sergeant Mason and (his) family in our prayers as we continue our mission here in Iraq.”

Mason is survived by his wife, Brook, a daughter, Ashley Bradley, 18, a son, Adam Bradley, 15, of Clarksville, his father, Rodger Mason of Rio Vista, Texas, and his mother, Sabine, address unknown.

Staff Sergeant Mason entered the Army in October 1992 and arrived at Fort Campbell September 2001. He knew the dangers of his job and told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a July interview that IEDs were becoming bigger and more deadly.

“The insurgents who make them are getting smarter, so we have to get smarter too,” he told the newspaper.

Brook Mason called her husband a proud soldier who loved his job and his family and always saw the lighter side of life.

“It is truly touching to know that my husband will be remembered so fondly by those with whom he served,” Mrs. Mason said. “His friends and family will remember him as a loyal, hard-working man with a strong sense of dedication to his family and his soldiers, and a quirky sense of humor. He managed to find humor in everything he did.”

In addition to being a soldier, Staff Sergeant Mason was a reserve deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, as a bomb squad volunteer.

Sheriff investigator and bomb specialist John Stone had known Staff Sergeant Mason for about two years as they worked together on the squad.

“He had always been quick with a smile, a good sense of humor and a good heart,” Stone said. “He was very proud of the job that he did and it showed. He was very professional. He will be missed.”

In addition to his Operation Iraqi Freedom tour, Staff Sergeant Mason also served in Operation Provide Comfort in Turkey in 1991 as a Black Hawk crew chief. He went to school to become an EOD specialist in 2000. He also was instrumental in designing the EOD truck used on Fort Campbell, his family said.

Mason's awards and decorations include an Army Commendation Medal, Army Aviator Badge, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and expert Weapons Qualification badge.

Staff Sergeant Mason's death makes it the 30th casualty of the 101st Airborne Division soldiers since its second deployment to Iraq in September. A total of 99 troops from Fort Campbell have died while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2003.

A memorial service for Staff Sgt. Mason will be held in Iraq. Fort Campbell holds a monthly Eagle Remembrance Ceremony the second Wednesday of each month to honor all fallen soldiers and those still serving in combat zones.

SSG Johnnie Mason, RIP

Staff Sergeant Johnnie Mason was smiling when I met him, a few days after he had dodged death. He was part of an Army bomb squad team in Mahmudiyah, not far from Baghdad. An improvised explosive device, stuffed underneath a set of corpses, detonated just feet away from him in mid-July. Only his kevlar bomb suit — and a quick duck behind a mound of dirt — kept him alive.

If Mason was bothered by the experience, he didn't show it. “All I've got is a little short-term memory loss. There are four roads on post — I keep getting lost,” he laughed.

But he had enough wherewithall to get back to work, he promised his commanding officer. Mason eyes grew big, and he cracked a toothy grin, when he got the okay.

I shook my head in wonder at Mason's easy-going bravery then.

Now, I'm cradling my head in my hand, after getting this message from Sergeant Jon Ferraro, from the “Baghdad Bomb Squad.”

On 19 December 2005 @ 23:30, my team leader SSG Johnnie V. Mason was killed in the line of duty in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq. We were working on an IED in the median of a road, when a possible secondary IED was found in our safe area. SSG Johnnie Mason responded immediately to the secondary and took immediate actions on the device. He was trying to safe the device when it detonated, killing him instantly from the explosion (at exactly 23:30). He saved at least 4 soldiers that night who were within feet of the device. SSG Johnnie Mason is a fallen brother. A brother in arms. An EOD brother. A husband to his wife Brook and a father to his 2 step children: Ashley (18) and Adam (16). He will not be forgotten. His loss will not be in vain.

He was my team leader. He was my NCO. He was my best friend. He was my brother. I have never gotten so close to someone in such a short time. I first met Johnnie when I got to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, back in January of this year. I found out he was going to be my team leader for Iraq back in March. Ever since then we have been inseparable and we've had a brothers bond.

We were Team 8 “Jokers”. When we rolled out on an incident, everyone knew who we were. Johnnie was a joker. He's the guy that makes everyone laugh and smile. Everyone liked him or loved him. He was always in a good mood and made the best out of every situation. He was cool under pressure and was an amazing team leader. He taught me alot as a person, as an EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] tech…and soon to be husband. We had fun on every incident we ran. We ran safely, as fast as possible, and held high standards as a team. Everywhere we went on post, someone would say hey to Johnnie from the lowest ranking private to the Brigade Commander. Everyone knew him.

I ask that everyone take a moment of silence and pray for his family and friends during this horrible time. I ask God to keep them strong and safe during this time of Christmas. I ask that you forward this to all the EOD techs you know and the friends and loved ones of his.

Thank you and God bless,
SGT Jonathan M. Ferraro
717th Ordnance Company (EOD)

Sergeant Mason will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 10 January 2006.

Soldiers' Unwavering Service Recalled
Men Killed in Iraq Last Month Known for Dedication to Army, Community
By Lila de Tantillo
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On December 19, 2005, Staff Sergeant Johnnie V. Mason's unit was summoned to inspect a potential improvised explosive device in al-Mahmudiyah, Iraq. The white burlap sack in the roadway was a bomb known as a “come-along device.”

“The first one out is real obvious, but there's another one they camouflage to try to kill medics and security forces,” said Army Sergeant Jonathan Ferraro, 22, who used a robot to disarm the first device while Mason headed to examine a green glow near a Humvee nearby. “It's a trap.”


Brigadier General Vincent Boles presents the U.S. flag to Brook Mason, Staff Sergeant Johnnie V. Mason's widow.

Mason, 32, of Clarksville, Tennessee, saved the lives of five soldiers, including Ferraro, that night. He was killed, likely while crouched on his hands and knees, as he tried to disarm the device before it could harm the others in his unit.

“He got everybody out and behind cover,” said Ferraro, who was about 10 yards away when he was rocked by the explosion. “The next thing I know, I did not have communications with Johnnie.”

Last week, Ferraro escorted his superior back to the United States. Mason was laid to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, the 210th person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be interred there. He was assigned to the 717th Ordnance Company, 184th Ordnance Battalion, 52nd Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Detachment), based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

About 100 mourners, many in uniform, gathered around the columbarium as an Arlington honor guard carried Mason's urn and an American flag. Brigadier General Vincent Boles knelt before Mason's widow, Brook Mason, and presented her the flag; a second was given to Mason's father, Rodger Mason. Other survivors include Mason's stepmother, Georgia Mason, and stepchildren, Ashley Bradley, 18, and Adam Bradley, 15.

“He would have been very pleased to know that none of the other guys were injured,” said his stepsister Norma Hawk, 27, adding that Mason had always watched over her as they were growing up. “He was that kind of person — the protector.”

Mason was born in Germany, where his father was stationed, and moved to Rio Vista, Texas, as a teenager. His best friend and brother-in-law, Jesse Hawk, 31, recalled their childhood experiences — Boy Scouts, driver's ed, scaring the younger kids in the neighborhood. The two would spook grade-school age kids camping in the area by telling them scary stories and showing up after dark wearing masks and rattling chains. Once, the younger kids decided to pursue the “apparitions” with pointed sticks, Hawk recalled.

“There I was, running for my life with a bunch of 10-year-olds chasing me,” Hawk said, adding that it was the sort of adventure that could only have happened hanging out with Johnnie.

Mason's father signed a waiver to allow him to join the Army Reserve early, and he went to active duty right after graduating from high school. He became a crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter, and met his future wife while stationed in Germany in 1995.

“He lived and died for the Army,” said Brook Mason, 40. “I have never seen my husband as happy as he was doing what he was doing.”

Mason trained in explosive ordnance disposal in Hawaii. He had been in Iraq since June. The unit dismantled three or four bombs a day, sometimes twice that number.

When Brook Mason expressed reservations about his most recent assignment, Mason told her: “This is my job. This is what I live for.”

He was less than a month away from returning to the United States when he was killed, Ferraro said.

Also laid to rest at Arlington yesterday was Master Sergeant Joseph J. Andres Jr. of Seven Hills, Ohio. Andres, 34, was a member of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was injured Christmas Eve in an attack in Baqubah, Iraq, and died later that day in Balad.

Friends described Andres as fun-loving and hard-working. Even though he traveled the world as a member of an elite military unit, he was deeply rooted in his church and community, they said.

“We had good times in school and out of school,” said Tim Lewandowski of Strongsville, Ohio, who was a classmate of Andres's in elementary school. Lewandowski recalled working on school projects with his friend and tearing through the woods on dirt bikes.

Tim Vojta, who had known Andres since the third grade, said the commitment and enthusiasm that Andres displayed as a youth continued into adulthood. At Padua Franciscan High School, where they ran track together, “he wasn't the fastest guy on the team, but he was the one who worked hard and was really dedicated,” said Vojta, who also fished and rode mopeds with Andres.

After high school, Andres studied at the University of Cincinnati before deciding to pursue a career in the military.

A memorial Mass on Thursday filled St. Columbkille Roman Catholic Church in Parma, Ohio, to capacity, and a service at a local recreational center that afternoon drew enough mourners to fill four basketball courts, Vojta said.


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