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AFSOC historian retires after 50-plus years of service

Herb Mason, Air Force Special Operations Command historian, speaks at his retirement ceremony on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 7, 2016. Mason served from April 28, 1965 to Jan. 3, 2016, making him the longest serving historian in Air Force history. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Melanie Holochwost)

Herb Mason, the former Air Force Special Operations Command historian, speaks at his retirement ceremony on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 7, 2016. Mason served from April 28, 1965, to Jan. 3, 2016, making him the longest-serving historian in Air Force history. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Melanie Holochwost)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- The longest-serving historian in the Air Force retired at Hurlburt Field Jan. 7.

Herb Mason, the Air Force Special Operations Command historian, spent more than 50 years preserving the Air Force story for generations to come.

Lt. Gen. Brad Heithold, the AFSOC commander, presided over the ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS).

“You all know Herb, he’s Mr. AFSOC history,” Heithold told the audience. “He’s been our historian since we stood up our command in 1991.”

The general spoke at great length about Mason and how he’s been a tremendous asset to AFSOC and the Air Force.

“Herb, you’ve done a wonderful job. We’ve been blessed to have you,” Heithold said.

The commander presented Mason the Air Force Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award, which is the highest award a civilian can receive.

According to the citation, Mason led the history office in completing 25 consecutive on-time annual historical reports -- a feat unmatched by any other Air Force major command.

In fact, the AFSOC history office made history themselves in 2009 when they won the best command-level history report and the best history program in the Air Force. This was the first and only time a history office won both awards simultaneously.

“That says just a little bit about the quality of the person we had running our history shop,” Heithold said. “This isn’t a guy who settles for mediocrity, status quo or second place.

“In AFSOC, we strive for first in everything we do, and Herb did that time and time again with quality history reports,” he added.

Mason’s legacy extends beyond historic documents; he continuously reached out to air commandos, leaving a lasting impact on the future of AFSOC.

“It’s history that makes you smart, and heritage that makes you proud,” Heithold said. “Between giving countless tours in our Air Park and educating young folks at USAFSOS, Herb made people smarter and prouder to be a part of AFSOC.”

During the ceremony, Charlie O'Connell, a representative from the Air Force history office, presented Mason the title page to the first history document that he wrote.

“This history report covered September through December 1965, which means that 50 years ago today, you were probably working on this report,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell also went through history records and discovered that Mason is currently the most published historian in the Air Force.

“As far as I can tell, you are listed as ‘author’ on more Air Force organizational histories than anyone else in our system,” he said to Mason. “On behalf of everyone in the history program, thank you for everything you’ve done.”

Then, a very humbled Mason took the floor to reflect on his career and share three big lessons he has learned.

“Over the years I’ve learned that life is not fair,” he said. “You never make bad decisions, just some are better than others. And, you never have a problem, you have a challenge.”

He also encouraged the audience to seek change.

“Sometimes we get caught up in our daily tasks and just do them for the sake of doing them,” Mason said. “I ask you to keep focus. If whatever you are working on doesn’t help the Airmen in the field, then why are you doing it?

“We need to lean in and truly be a step ahead in a changing world,” he added. “That’s what makes us AFSOC.”

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