Introducing a memoir about Thomas Pecora, a man who has dedicated his life to service to his country. The Guardian covers his entire career, a career full of rewarding sacrifice, heroism, bravery, and dedication. Who loves the show 24, with Jack Bauer as the CTU (Counterterrorism unit) agent, kicking ass and taking names? Well this is Tom Pecora’s life. Take your favorite protagonist, such as Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath, or Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp and put into one book all of their most bad ass action packed chapters and that is what Guardian is, but real life not a work of fiction.
The Guardian sets the setting by chronicling the murder of a US Army Colonel James Nicholas Rowe, the chief of the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) in Manila, Philippines. Colonel Rowe knew he has been targeted for assassination and requested through his chain of command more security, but nothing was done. His one driver, untrained in tactical maneuvers and security could not protect him and the Colonel was killed. After that we are introduced to Thomas Pecora, a twenty-six-year-old born and raised in the small suburb of Greenfield, Milwaukee. Tom almost forgot he had seen a CIA job advertisement two months prior in the Milwaukee Journal and had applied. Well, they called, and he was pumped. So pumped that he told all his family and friends in his small town. Fast forward a few months, his interviews had gone well, but he was instructed to tell everyone but his immediate family that he didn’t get the job. From there, Tom was forced to lie to everyone he knew, even people he dated and was very close to about what he did for a living.
The CIA, like any organization doesn’t just hand out awesome jobs with a license to kill, everything must be earned. Tom spent the first two years riding a desk and conducting background checks for aspiring government employees. Then, due to the tragic murder of Colonel Rowe, the CIA created a new department, POC, Protective Operations Cadre. Tom applied and got accepted into the new program. This required Tom and his new team mates to get trained up in fire arms, tactical driving, surveillance detection and counter surveillance methodology, they had to learn to operate in stealth mode, in order to protect their person of interest. His first tour of duty was Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. The US Military with United Nations was there to provide security for humanitarian relief efforts. The nation had been at civil war for years at this point and their main job in Mogadishu was to keep agency personnel safe, specifically their deputy, John Marcello. They would protect their interests whenever they went on intel gathering mission, visiting with their contacts around the city. To say this was a hard stress job would be an understatement, forced to constantly be aware of your surroundings, and think steps ahead of what might happen and what your options are. I mentioned Mitch Rapp, how many times in Flynn’s writing has Rapp exited his car, or building and scanned the rooftops, windows and the general terrain for threats? Well, Tom had to do it every day as part of his normal routine. He would exit his apartment and have to check his vehicle with a mirror to ensure no one left him an explosive gift under the carriage. His first tour in Mogadishu ended with a mission Deputy Marcello just absolutely had to go on, despite Tom’s and his teams warning about safety. Well, on this mission, they were attacked, and Marcello was shot. He survived, but only due to the quick thinking and acting of Tom and his partner. With Tom putting pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding while taking enemy fire, and his teammate driving with extreme skill to get him to a doctor. Tom later received the Intelligence Star for his efforts, the second highest award the CIA can give for bravery and valor. This award, at this point in history had not been awarded to a Security Officer since 1963, the intelligence Star is equivalent to the US Military’s Silver Star. To put into perspective how dangerous Mogadishu was, just ten days after Tom left the country, the US Army Rangers and Special Forces were attacked, local Somalian forces shot down two helicopters and killed 19 American soldiers in what became known as the Black Hawk Down novel by Journalist Mark Bowden and the movie of the same title.
Mogadishu was only Tom’s first deployment, there were many more. Many were weeks or months long while some ran as far as a year in high stress, combat environment protecting their charges and being the professional that he is. Majority of those missions all ended with some type of phrase about being successful and most importantly, ‘without a single American life being lost.’ His deployments took him to practically every hot spot, dangerous, and high stress environment you can imagine. Back then, riding a desk just wasn’t going to cut it for Thomas Pecora. In between missions, he would come back to the states, sit behind his desk and try to figure out what postings are currently available to take him where the action is. Those deployments took him to places like, Tuzla, Bosnia. The Middle East, including Pakistan and Iraq during the rise of the insurgency. Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America. Some more high-profile assignments he was tasked with during his trips is assisting The Secret Service with protecting the President when then President George W. Bush visited his AO in Manila. The Secret Service referred to his expertise since he was the expert security officer on the ground. By this point in his career, he wasn’t deployed to a hot spot for a few weeks or months, but due to his rank and new responsibilities being given to him, he would be posted at certain AO’s for up to three years. After that, the war in the Middle East was picking up and Iraq was the new hot spot where Tom’s expertise would be needed. While here, one of the more high-profile protective assignments he received was when then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made a secret visit to the troops in a war zone, in Baghdad. Thanks to Tom’s experiences, expertise and thorough work ethic, this trip for the VP was also a successful one. Tom received a notable appreciation letter from Vice President Cheney thanking him for his service. Throughout his career, Tom also experienced personal tragedy, losing family members due to sickness and at times having to come home to an empty apartment because being in a relationship while being an operator for the CIA just doesn’t work. His then girlfriend, tried to make Tom choose between his mission and her, his dedication and drive were too strong, and he went on yet another mission, coming home to an empty apartment. Some of his deployment turnaround time was so quick, he would come home long enough to do his laundry, pay his bills, and repack. On another note, some surprises which caught me as the reader, and Tom as the recipient of that surprise totally off guard. Imagine getting a phone call from an old fling you had over a decade earlier and receiving some life changing news. Tom being Tom took it, embraced it and made the best of it.
As a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir about Thomas Pecora and the life of adventure he led. Foremost, I would like to thank him for his service to our nation. It is people like him, warriors who serve, whether it’s in the armed forces, local law enforcement, or one of the many agencies which make up our intelligence community. It is a team effort, but folks like Tom that dedicate an entire career to service, making sacrifices in their personal lives in order to accomplish the mission is why we all sleep safe at night and live a wonderful free life. Having been overseas a few times in a combat zone, I can relate a little bit of Tom’s analysis of life in a combat zone compared to life in the US. He says, “people living in the United States enjoy a level of safety almost incomprehensible for most people on the planet.”
I mentioned above that this memoir is like a series of books with only the best most actioned packed scenes from your favorite, most bad ass protagonist. That is an understatement, the fast paced, hard core life Tom has led is sure to keep you up all night to ensure this turns into a quick read. Pick up the Guardian – Life in the crosshairs of the CIA’s war on terror and recommend it to all of your reader friends.
Tom, thank you for your service.
If you live near Milwaukee, WI. Tom will be at The SafeHouse – the top-secret restaurant that requires a password or if you don’t know the password, strict vetting to ensure you’re not an enemy spy to enter. Tom will be there on Tuesday, May 14th at 1800 conducting a book signing and meet and greet.
About the Author:
Thomas (Tom) Pecora has over 27 years of experience working in the security field, 24 years working in the CIA. He retired from the CIA as GS 15 Senior Security Manager working in protective operations, counterterrorism, and security training, most of it operating in low intensity conflict areas. Tom received the Intelligence Star, the CIA’s second highest honor for valor and the Career Intelligence Medal for service reflecting exceptional achievements.