A legacy remembered

  • Published
  • By David R. Hopper
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
If someone said they retired at 59; your initial reaction would be one of a general nicety or some other form of congratulations. But what can one say to James Norwood who retired July 31 at 59 years - of combined service?

Somehow a general congratulation doesn't seem to be enough for someone with this amount of dedication, does it? So, what kind of individual was Norwood?

The answer to that question can only be answered by those who were around him. Those who depended on him to solve the problems they couldn't answer. When questioned about James Norwood, phrases like "impossible to replace," "consistently upbeat" and "go-to-guy" are common, but one element all his colleagues agree on and that is Norwood is more than just a co-worker and mentor - he is their friend.

"Leaving the people I've worked with for so long, it's like losing family," Norwood said.

The "go-to-guy" shared his experience and knowledge to help mold a new generation.

"I call him my mentor, role model and friend," said Carol Fisher, 55th Operations Group Electronic Intelligence program manager. "I loved listening to all his experiences; he had so much to share."

Working for the National Security Agency here put Norwood in a spot to not only work closely with U.S. Strategic Command but also with the 55th Wing.

"I have been assigned with the 55th Wing on and off for 16 years and heard many names mentioned over the years but Jim Norwood has always been a constant," said Lt. Col. W.R. Alan Dayton, 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron commander. "The 55th is undeniably more capable because of his work."

Passing on knowledge was a part of who Norwood was and as he shared his experiences he ended up influencing an entire generation in the electronic intelligence gathering community.

"Norwood's legacy of commitment and passion to the electronic intelligence mission will continue to impact 55 Wing reconnaissance operations for decades," said Lt. Col. Gyorgy Laczko, 343rd Reconnaissance Squadron director of operations.

"I have had the pleasure of working with Jim the last three years here and one thing stands out to me; he never tires of sharing his knowledge with others," said James Stephenson, NSA Cryptologic Services Group chief at U.S. Strategic Command.

Norwood's ability to share knowledge was not just based on data collection but also from personal experience.

"I liked the story about when he deployed to Florida in support of the Cuba Missile crisis," Fisher said. "If you were an electronic warfare officer or an electronic intelligence analyst, it didn't take you long to learn who Jim was and that it was in your best interest to listen to what he had to say and his direction. EWOs and analysts alike sought out his guidance and respected him."

Norwood began his career in August 1953 when he enlisted in the Air Force. He retired from the Air Force in 1984 as a chief master sergeant and began working for the NSA in 1985. Twenty-eight years, two months and 29 days later, Norwood retired for a combined federal service of 59 years, three months and 22 days.

"Jim is an amazing person," said Tech. Sgt. Heather Erickson, 22nd Intelligence Squadron Operations NCOIC. "His countless stories are entertaining and full of valuable lessons that he is happy to pass on."

The importance of the intelligence mission is what drove Norwood to share his experience, to mold officers into being the best they could. He understood the real reason behind the mission is not for awards or some other form of recognition but to save lives.

"The importance of the information provided to aircrews takes on a whole new level when reconnaissance crews are being attacked by both enemy aircraft and [surface to air missiles]," Norwood said as he recalled the year he spent in Southeast Asia supporting combat operations.

When asked about giving the young Airmen of today a helpful tip before he goes Norwood simply said, "Always be willing to give extra effort to any project to make it the best it can be - don't let the clock determine when your project is ready for prime time."

To have an effect on a person's life is not uncommon but to influence hundreds, maybe even thousands, and an entire career field is nothing short than securing a legacy.

"The impact [Norwood] had on reconnaissance operations is no less than monumental," Laczko said.

"To say Jim is a legend in the electronic intelligence world is a bit of an understatement," Erickson said. "I've had countless electronic intelligence Airmen visiting the office who ask, 'Is that really Mr. Norwood and is it ok if I shake his hand?'"

"Jim is never too busy and always delighted to talk to anyone in [the electronic intelligence] career field," Erickson went on to say. "He is going to be dearly missed by those who were blessed to work with him."