Norman Mash

Spotlight on You: Norman Mash

Security guru to retire after 63 years in military, DOD

by: Takahiro Takiguchi: Photo by GySgt Tiffany Carter | .
Stripes Japan | .
published: November 05, 2015

When some people at Yokota Air Base think of security, they no doubt think of Norman Mash. At age 83, U.S. Forces Japan security manager is set to retire after 63 years of service on Nov. 30.

Mash’s oversight of personnel and physical security for USFJ headquarters includes security training, clearance processing, and working with his Japanese counterparts. He has overseen security for large-scale exercises such as Keen Edge and Keen Sword, according to Frank Sheehan, Mash’s supervisor.

“Under his leadership, the United States Forces, Japan’s security team was recognized by national and theater organizations on numerous occasions for its outstanding security program,” Sheehan said.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Mash enlisted in U.S. Air Force in 1952. He moved to Yokota Air Base in 1974. He retired as chief master sergeant at Yokota in 1985, after what he sharply recalls as, “33 years, one month and seven days” of military service. He started his civilian career as a security officer with Fifth Air Force Security Forces that same year. Two years later, Mash took on his current position as security manager.

Over the years, Mash has headed security in Vietnam, liaised with Tokyo Metropolitan Police Agency and oversaw security during Operation Tomodach, following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. He can reminisce about interacting with Gen. Curtis LeMay on Air Force bases in Nebraska and Idaho, and President John F. Kennedy and his family on Joint Base Cape Cod, Mass.

“He is always the first one in the office coming in at 5 a.m. every morning,” said Sheehan, who also describes him as humble, modest and extremely reliable. “He never misses work due to illness and rarely takes a day off.”

An avid athlete who once won Yokota’s racquetball championship, played football in his youth and even tried out for the Chicago Cubs, Mash still loves to bowl. In addition to taking tours, shopping with his wife and staying active in his local town council (Akiruno), he says he also looks forward to doing volunteer work at Yokota.

Q: How does it feel to finally retire after 63 years of service with US Forces Japan?  

A: I was with USFJ from February 1987 to end 30 November 2015. From March 1974 to Feb 1985 I was active duty with the 374th Security Forces and 5th Air Force Security Forces here at Yokota until 1985 and then retirement.  Meeting and helping people; teaching English at no cost to Japanese children that lived in my Town of Akiruno.  How does it feel to finally retire? I did not intend to stay this long and only did so because I had no DEROS as to when I had to leave.

Q: What are some of the most memorable events in your career?  

A: Serving on the battlegrounds of South Vietnam and helping my fellow security forces members stay alive so that they could return home to their families. Challenges have been many during my career and one that sticks out is to never be a raciest and accept (people) for what they are, as they know no better.

Q: Who were some of the most famous people you encountered; what was your impression?

A: I’ve been impressed by many but the person I will never forget would be President John F. Kennedy as I was Stationed at Otis Air Force Base,  Mass., as a security policeman when he was assassinated. In addition, I and my fellow security policemen performed security duties at the base hospital where Jacqueline Kennedy was admitted with medical issues. I have news clips dated 22 Nov. 1964 of these events.

Q: When were you in Vietnam; what was it like?  

A: I served in Vietnam in 1967-68 for 11 months and 28 days in a place named Pliku, near Cambodia with the requirement of serving 1 year. Staying alive during the hours of darkness because you were never attacked during the day light hours.

Q: What are your plans now that you’ve retired?   

A: Spend more time with my wife, which I have not done during my military and civilian career.  I always remember that God did not put us on this earth forever, as he has a better place for you.

Q: Are there any other thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?  

A: Yes- You can do very little with faith but you can do nothing without it; remember that we make more enemies by what we say than friends by what we do. It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them; and lastly, anger is not only inevitable, it is necessary as its absence means indifference, the most disastrous of all human failings.

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