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.
Kulvi's Army career lasts well into her later years, taking her from Kentucky to Germany to Walter Reed in D.C. She works her way to a Masters Degree, endures a serious back injury, and navigates the challenges of being a woman in a rapidly changing military - all the while raising her departed sister's children.
At the onset of Operation Desert Storm, Ernest Banasau is a Logistics Coordinator in Germany. He contacts the command to offer his services in the war effort, and is stationed in Turkey to play a coordinating role in Operation Provide Comfort, protecting Kurdish refugees from Saddam Hussein's army.
Stationed in Okinawa, Ruth Kulvi experiences multiple life-threatening typhoons. Her first priority is the safety of the soldiers and children whose lives are imperiled by the merciless storms. While attempting to relocate a sick GI, her team must brave intense winds and stubborn roads.
After his return home from his 2nd tour in Vietnam, he deployed out to Korea providing Medevac support for ground troops there. After that, he rose in the ranks of the military and ended up as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Security for the Army.
Returning to the States after his first tour was relieving but difficult for Aaron Cox as he acclimated back to the U.S. climate. After time in North Carolina, he shipped back off to Afghanistan and found quite a few major changes between there and Iraq.
Newly transferred from the Army into the Air Force, Bob Seeley's rapid promotion ruffled some feathers. When his commanding officer was transferred to Germany, he went with him. During this time, he helped General Eisenhower locate the site of a peculiar memory from World War I.
Barry McCaffrey was in charge of rallying the different battalions right before Desert Storm started and he made sure to do it very decisively. Because they had so many months preceding the conflict, the plans were extensively mapped out so that the different units were all prepared.
Due to the prominence of poppy, Zach Pena and his platoon found many inventive ways that the plant was hidden. After he got a lower GI infection, Pena was almost unable to return home with his platoon, but fortunately mustered the strength to go home with his friends.
What did not work right in Iraq? Battalion commander Chuck Ware has a list. The sand was insidious, getting into every crevice of every piece of gear. There were vast quantities of supplies, but no one knew where anything was in a sea of unmarked CONEX containers, including food and vital parts. Anti-aircraft gunners were operating as road guards, everyone was in chemical suits, and the .45 ammo didn't work.
Coming back to civilian life, Zach Pena found his time at University of Tennessee to be a smooth transition. Coming back to civilian life can bring some hurdles but he was able to excel at his new challenges and came out for the best.
After his time in Vietnam, Barry McCaffrey spent some time teaching at West Point and enjoyed his time there. After working there, McCaffrey left to live in Europe to work at the headquarters of NATO and then moving back to D.C. to work at the Pentagon.
Patrick Sauer recalls some of the differences between the American medical system and the one they implemented in South Korea. After Korea, he stayed busy working in the States as an U.S. Army Recruiting Command seeking out medical recruits.
The battle at the Rumaila oil field came during a cease fire. Chuck Ware was directing a small group of tanks and supporting vehicles moving to investigate an Iraqi armored formation right in front of them. What he saw was that his unit was greatly outnumbered and his flanks were exposed.
Zach Pena remembers some of the most inventive IEDs that his platoon came across as they patrolled the Afghan desert. After one particularly hairy encounter in the desert, his platoon had to secure the area and make it back to safety.