7:48 | Mac McCahan's first assignment in the Signal Corps was in Germany, which was just what he wanted. His wife could experience some of what he enjoyed as a military dependent stationed there. When the Berlin Wall crisis came up, it turns out he had the only American cable splicer in Europe.
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When communications engineer Mac McCahan arrived in Vietnam, he had to straighten out an Air Force Colonel who was trying to send him to Thailand, where he wouldn't get credit for a combat tour. Then he settled down to improving voice communications and found out that it was so stressful on the switchboards, operators were committing suicide.
"We don't want your equipment!" Communications engineer Mac McCahan was trying to improve military telephone service in Vietnam and he had to repeatedly reassure units that he wasn't tying to take over, just trying to make the system work better.
They wouldn't tell Mac McCahan who the visitor was, but they told him how many voice circuits were required and that the restoration priority on those lines was "1b." That got his attention because that was the code for President of the United States.
Mac McCahan lost two cousins in Vietnam, Lee and Gene McCahan. If that wasn't bad enough, his brother George McCahan died from leukemia due to contact with Agent Orange. His own luck stayed with him, though, and he kept missing enemy ambushes by thirty minutes.
Mac McCahan never cared for the rule that he had to store his weapon in the safe in his office. When the Tet offensive happened, he had to hunker down, unarmed, in his quarters. When he returned to the States, he was armed only with his dignity as he faced rabid protestors.
Mac McCahan felt like he was doing something great on his second tour in Vietnam. As he transferred control of facilities to the Vietnamese, each one meant that soldiers were going home. Then he stopped at the dispensary to find out why he was suddenly soaked in sweat. Part 1 of 3.
While the doctors tried to find out whether he'd had a heart attack or not, alarming telegrams began to go out to Mac McCahan's family, despite the fact that he'd signed a document directing the Army to send such messages only in the event of death. Part 2 of 3.
The doctors still didn't know if he'd had a heart attack or not, but they sent Mac McCahan home from Vietnam, regardless. Then they told him he was on his way out of the Army. "No. I'm not," came the reply. Part 3 of 3.
Mac McCahan knew he wanted a military career. He had a taste of military life as an Air Force dependent and he secured a congressional appointment to the Air Force Academy, but a run in with an eye chart derailed that. He settled in at Clemson with Army ROTC but a freak accident cost him a year.
In the post-Trujillo chaos of the Dominican Republic, Signal Corps officer Mac McCahan began a long run of finding solutions to communications problems. After restoring phone service by adapting old exchanges, he was able to communicate with Washington by whistling the appropriate tones to establish a connection.
As if restoring communications in the restive Dominican Republic wasn't enough to keep him busy, Mac McCahan had to deal with constantly shuttling back to Ft. Bragg for briefings and an acting Signal Officer who wrote him up for spite. Not to mention lacking the counter sign at a crucial time.
After his tour in the Dominican Republic Mac McCahan began the Training With Industry program. He worked with the New York phone company learning the network and installing phones in the field, then applied that knowledge to military telecommunications.
Communications engineer Mac McCahan caught the eye of the White House when he successfully managed two projects for the White House Communications Agency. The first was extending coverage of the first moon landing to Alaska and the second was managing the satellite link for a presidential trip to Asia.
"This is all classified. I recommend it not be broadcast." That's what Mac McCahan had to say about a script for an upcoming CBS news program. Three weeks later, what did he see when he turned on the television?
The signal battalion was ecstatic when they got in any new gear following the Vietnam war, remembers Mac McCahan. Nearly everything had been left there. In order to jump with communications capability at hand, he crammed a Command Post's worth of radio gear onto an Army Mule cargo vehicle. And what do you call a Mule full of radios?
Assigned a command position that was usually occupied by a Lt. Colonel, Major Mac McCahan sought assurances that he would get no interference because of his rank. He got that assurance and soon, the promotion to Lt. Colonel as well. Then he wound up with a distinctive blue beret thanks to the new Air Assault movement.
Reorganization was swirling around Mac McCahan at the 101st Airborne and he was nearly made battalion commander. After a European exercise where he met two Medal of Honor recipients, he found out that a communications plan for a hospital he'd drawn up had achieved some distinction.
Mac McCahan relates the story of a Chinook that mistakenly strayed into the Korean DMZ and was shot down. Closer to home, as North Korean armor was massing across the border, he tells why his wife became suddenly upset and convinced that another war was imminent. It turned out to be a case of Loose Lips.
Leaving Korea with his family and adopted daughter was a struggle. Striking airlines and visas gave him fits but they made it home and he eventually became an advocate for Amerasian adoption, appearing before Congress to support the cause.
Back in the States and commanding a Signal Battalion, engineer Mac McCahan wrote an article on nodal communications systems that was groundbreaking. He used off the shelf gear and existing installations and improved service for all users.
His expertise in satellite communications landed Mac McCahan a position at the headquarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. That expertise was put to good use on an ill fated mission during the Iran Hostage Crisis.
There was no doubt Mac McCahan was a problem solver. He developed a scheme for bit stuffing that made incompatible gear work together. Should have been a patent right there. Then he encountered a problem that was projected to cost one million dollars and take a year to fix. Would he do it in half the time for half the money? Think again.
The Generals kept asking, why do we lose our satellite link during the heavy tropical rain in the Philippines? The answer, according to communications engineer Mac McCahan, is in the true shape of a raindrop, a shape which is not what you might think.
Mac McCahan has a message for all who served in a support role instead of a combat unit. First, consider yourself lucky, and second, your service was just as necessary and contributed just as much as anyone's.
Justice details a too-close-for-comfort interaction with a vehicle-borne IED. The IED came as a complete surprise and the entire F.O.B. fell into what Justice could only describe as “chaos” immediately following the explosion. She suffered several injuries and had to work with the nurses back in Bagram and depend on the friendship of comrade Colonel Ellison to come back from the injuries.
Jack Martin finished out a long career as an Army engineer at Fort Belvoir where the engineering school is located. Once again, he participated in high level planning for war contingencies, as well as dealing with lower level problems like officers who wouldn't mow their grass.
Working in Civil Affairs, it's essential to understand the nuances of what is going on in the place you're deployed. Christina Cross made sure she was well-versed in the intellectual part as well as the physical training. Being given the honor graduate award at airborne school meant a lot to her.
As part of an effort to integrate education in the services, Army engineer Jack Martin was sent to Quantico for the Marine equivalent of the Army Command and General Staff College. Then came the plum assignment, Hawaii, where he could learn to do something he'd always wanted to do.
Jack Martin was a new lieutenant out of engineering school by way of West Point. His first post was in Cold War Germany in support of an armored division, where he faced a great challenge, moving tanks across the Rhine.
Within four days of being injured in Iraq, Dale Beatty was at Walter Reed hospital in Maryland where his wife was waiting. During his recovery, he was inspired by the actions of those who helped him to do something himself to help other wounded veterans.
He joined the same National Guard unit that his father had joined. Dale Beatty wasn't ready to leave his North Carolina home, but the guard offered a taste of military life, even deployments during weather emergencies.
A few years into his career, the Corps of Engineers sent Jack Martin to M.I.T for a year of civil engineering study. Then it was on to an ROTC teaching assignment at Auburn. Finally he put his engineering mettle to the test in Greenland, where a giant RADAR installation was needed.
His National Guard unit was activated, trained and deployed, and Dale Beatty was on his way to Iraq. Nothing had prepared him for what he experienced when the ramp dropped on the plane and the heat and the smell of the desert engulfed him. As he moved from Kuwait into Iraq, he looked over the civilians around him in his convoy. Are these the guys who are going to shoot at me?
It was an old Iraqi Air Force base in northern Iraq that the Americans settled into and began to fortify and improve. Dale Beatty noted the grass and trees near the base and they gave him the idea that maybe they were far enough north to avoid the heat of the desert. He was wrong. The base kept taking fire from the surrounding area, so patrols were started to find and eliminate the threat.
Jack Martin was having a fine time his first year at college when his father asked him this question, would he accept an appointment to West Point? Having answered the only way a real man could answer, he chose engineering school at Fort Belvoir upon graduation.
As Dale Beatty's truck convoy moved through the southern Iraqi desert, he encountered crowds of children begging for food and water. The soldiers were instructed not to throw them anything, but when a father sees children in need, the rules sometimes get overlooked. As he moved into populated areas, the begging turned to selling.
After Advanced Individual Training, Aaron Cox shipped over to Kuwait and stayed there until their deployment to Iraq. After enjoying Kuwait, the transition to Iraq was a more difficult place to live, especially with all the added complications that came from war.
After his Vietnam tour, Army engineer Jack Martin served with an agency testing technical equipment developed for the unusual circumstances of an insurgency war. His next assignment was at Fort Hood, where he fought a different enemy, the barren environs where the Army wanted a golf course.
Though he was severely injured in Iraq, Dale Beatty has no animosity towards anyone. He acknowledges the good leaders that he had in the Army, who all shared one important quality which he tried to emulate, and he shares an experience he had in an Iraqi family's home that gave him a sobering perspective on our mission there.
After returning to college after airborne school, Christina Cross prepared herself physically and mentally for the prospect of heading off to war. More training at Fort Polk and Fort Benning got her ready for her deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.
National Guardsman Dale Beatty was at work when he saw the 9/11 attacks unfold on TV. He knew immediately that he would be going to war soon. That was confirmed when he was sent to California for desert training. After further training at Fort Bragg, his unit readied to deploy.
First arriving in Iraq, Christina Cross and her battalion had to adjust to life in the desert. She was tasked with working with the Iraqis to improve the local schools which had suffered from the war. Her experiences with the Iraqi people were also memorable.