6:00 | 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.
Keywords : Mac McCahan Joint Chiefs of Staff satellite communications map coverage Iran Hostage Crisis rescue briefing terminal Ft. Monmouth New Jersey MSC-46 Washington DC DCA Defense Communications Agency
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gail Taylor Black decided to stick it out for a 25 year Army career. Now a contractor for the National Guard, she feels like she is giving back to the military that did so much for her. She fondly remembers the sergeant who helped her get through the readjustment to civilian life.
When a vehicle loaded with explosives blew up at the gate, dental officer Mike Barno hurried to his emergency assignment, triage at the aid station. A truck with wounded men from the Afghan Army pulled up and he jumped into the back, ready to help.
Following the tragic deaths of ten Afghan children, it fell on General David Barno to tell President Karzai about the incident. He describes the effect this had on the rules of engagement going forward and he discusses a document he drew up to give guidelines to the troops that would keep them in the good graces of their hosts.
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.
Regena Herndon wanted to join the military after talking to a recruiter at a high school career night. The fact that her brother would not talk about his experiences in Vietnam did not deter her. Basic training was tough, but she prevailed and became a soldier. Her first post at Fort Dix was a bad experience, but the next one, in Frankfurt made up for it.
Fort Bragg was one of her favorite posts. What did Regena Herndon learn there? Endurance and taking initiative and how to deal with high ranking people. After her retirement, she worked with juvenile offenders and got a lot of satisfaction when lives were turned around.
When Dionne Archibald went to the Military Sea Lift Command, she was lucky to get a brand new ship. The job was fueling and supplying ships at sea and it was during this time that she got to make a contribution to the Desert Storm operation.
Dionne Archibald had many assignments and ships during her Navy career, including the USS Wasp. It was transporting Marines during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. As the information security manager, it was part of her job to deny internet access to those who strayed online.
Her mother passed away an September 10, 2001. Nothing could have prepared Dianne Butts for the shock of the following morning's events, a national tragedy added on to her personal tragedy. As a logistics officer, she did her part when called to Operation Iraqi Freedom, where she did her job, despite the psychological toll any war zone can bring.
Being stationed in Germany was a great assignment for Dionne Archibald because she always had a love of travel and that gave her a chance to see Europe. After she returned to the States, she was promoted to master chief and returned to recruiting as an equal opportunity specialist.
Dianne Butts talks about the strained relationship with her daughter while she was deployed, an example of the stress on military families. She keeps the PTSD at bay by getting involved with women veteran groups and lobbying congress on veteran issues.
After thirty years of service, Dionne Archibald left the Navy, but her passion to help people continued. Her non-profit organization Active Veterans With Answers acts as a bridge between veterans and the VA, to make sure they have access to all their benefits.
Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz wanted to deploy to Iraq and he got his wish. The spartan conditions were bearable, but he had a sergeant who badgered him about his English and relegated him to KP duty. Fortunately, he was able to move to another company, where he was wanted, with the help of some breakfast cereal.
After being thrown into combat right away, Marine air traffic control technician Nate Winkler's time in Iraq got a little more settled down. He was in country for eight weeks doing his part to set up and operate forward air fields. Then, relief was sent and he came home, which was fine. He'd got his taste of the war. Part 3 of 3.
She was young and alone, but the Navy made sure there was someone to meet Dionne Archibald at the airport in Japan as she began her first assignment. She had no problem re-enlisting after her initial four year hitch and went to an advanced communications course before her next post. She lucked out on that one.
During the period of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, Kirby was stationed yet again. This time, she was working in Portsmouth, Virginia. She talks about how her children are now in the military themselves, and gives her thoughts about the ending of the Vietnam War.
After getting back on flight status, Knisely also worked under General Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. He gives his reflections about the Vietnam War as a whole and what he wants people to take away from it.
Dionne Archibald was a top recruiter for the Navy. She was stationed in New York City on that fateful day when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were hit by terrorists. She recounts the events as she experienced them, including a grim trip to the site.
She new it was for real when the order came down. "Lock and load!" Gail Taylor Black was on her way into Bosnia with a signal support unit. She was amazed at the poverty of the place, and it gave her a new appreciation for her life at home. She also saw the effects of PTSD, before she ever heard the word. Part 1 of 2.