ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. –
The senior Army civilian at the Department of Defense’s premier multifunctional all hazards command completed more than 43 years of uniformed and civilian service, Aug. 18.
Dr. Mark W. Fishback retired from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command during a widely attended ceremony on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
A retired U.S. Marine Corps chief warrant officer 4, Fishback served as the deputy to the commanding general of the U.S. Army’s 20th CBRNE Command and the senior Army civilian at the one-of-a-kind command.
Headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the 20th CBRNE Command is home to 75 percent of the Active Duty U.S. Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) specialists, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, five Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Teams and three Nuclear Disablement Teams.
From 19 bases in 16 states, Soldiers and Army civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command tackle the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.
A native of North Salem, Indiana, Fishback joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1979, one month after the Iranian hostage crisis began. He served in infantry and amphibious assault units before becoming a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense Specialist and officer.
Fishback was deployed for more than half of his Marine Corps career and served on numerous peacekeeping, contingency and combat operations. He is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was wounded twice and recognized for valor five times.
During peacetime, Fishback served as the chief of the Marine Corps Radiological Division on Fort McClellan, Alabama, where he taught radiological defense as well as nuclear and chemical target analysis. He helped to develop the Marine Corps’ first NBC Defense Warrant Officer’s Course in 1983.
After creating a series of mathematical formulas and nomograms for neutron induced gamma activity, Fishback named the three-cycle log graphs the “Keller Nomograms” after his grandfather Keller Owens “K.O.” Fishback.
Fishback was instrumental in the establishment of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) and he influenced the development of the National Guard’s Civil Support Teams.
Maj. Gen. Antonio V. Munera, the commanding general of the 20th CBRNE Command, said Fishback’s work on the U.S. Marine Corps CBIRF and the Marine Corps Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense warrant officer program had served as a model for the U.S. Army.
“You have left a profound legacy,” said Munera, a career U.S. Army Chemical Corps officer from Fairfax, Virginia, who served with Fishback in Iraq. “You have made a lasting impact on our (Chemical Corps) warrant officer program.”
Fishback also supported the establishment of the Enhanced CBRN Equipment Set, which was used by the Army for the CBRN Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets, Kits and Outfits (DR-SKO).
His last Marine Corps assignment was at the U.S. Central Command following 9/11 where he helped to author the Department of Defense’s first Combatting Weapons of Mass Destruction Strategy (CWMD) Joint Doctrine (JP 3-40 and JP 3-41) and the first geographic combatant command theater CWMD plan. He also helped to shape U.S. Strategic Command’s CWMD Global Synchronization Plan.
Fishback retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a chief warrant officer 4 in September 2004 following 25 years of uniformed service.
George E. Lawson, the director of Integration at Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND), said he had been trained and mentored by Fishback throughout his career.
“One of the things he taught me was you’ve got to be smart, you’ve got to make it better and always better yourself,” said Lawson, who has known Fishback for 37 years. “You can’t be fearful of anything if you are physically, mentally and morally strong.”
Shortly after retirement, Fishback became a U.S. Army civilian and combatting WMD planner. In 2010, he was promoted to GS-15 and he served as the chief of Plans and Operations for the U.S. Army Nuclear and Countering WMD Agency, a field operating agency.
While there, he helped to develop the first Army Service Component Command CWMD plan and provided planning support for Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya, Operation Tomodachi in Japan and the Syrian chemical weapons destruction mission. Fishback also worked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff on the Nuclear Posture Review and New Start Treaty as one of the lead Army representatives.
In 2018, Fishback became the 20th CBRNE Command deputy to the commanding general and served as the senior civilian for more than 240 U.S. Army civilians at the command. He provided oversight for the CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, chemical surety and homeland defense missions.
Fishback earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina as well as graduate degrees in management and public administration from the University of Phoenix and a Doctor of Philosophy in Management from the University of Maryland.
According to Fishback, the highlight of serving as the deputy to the commanding general of the 20th CBRNE Command was representing and working with the military and civilian workforce at the multifunctional command.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to be among you,” said Fishback. “Of all my experiences, other than my family, I am most proud of once having served in the United States military. The values forged early in my military career such as honor, courage, and commitment – I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life, and I have seen those same traits in each of you.”
Following his retirement ceremony, Fishback will move to Alabama to spend more time with his family. He is married to the former Cheryl L. Blood of Hayward, California, and they have two daughters, Brandi L. Parrish and Brooke L. Davis, and four grandchildren: Clayton Wayne, Isla Kelly, Dawson Sheppard and Hudson Alan.
“I am honored to end my service where it all began nearly four and a half decades ago – surrounded by men and women, military and civilian alike, who have dedicated their lives to the preservation of our nation and our way of life,” said Fishback.