Martin J. McDonald

McDonaldIn April 2002, Lynn and I will have been married for 47 years. We had seven children (four boys and three girls) and now have 11 grandchildren. All our children are married and we think there will be more grandchildren in the near future. Lynn and I have been extremely fortunate, we have a beautiful family, our love has prevailed, the memories we have collected over these 47 years continue to fill our life and have kept us extremely happy.

As some of you might know, I originally was a member of USAF OCS Class 60C. However, I washed out of Class 60-C just 19 days prior to your graduation. The officer in charge of the board reviewing my status in 60C was Major Moore. I remember his name and his face, but I can’t remember what his position was in the school. He told me I would never be able to compete with the Air Force Academy and OTS graduates who would be my contemporaries. Washing out was a tremendous disappointment, to say the least, and sewing Staff Sergeant stripes onto your OCS uniforms is an experience no one should have to endure. But my wife, Lynn, was with me and stood by me every step of the way. I don’t know if I could have made it without her. The Air Force assigned me to L.G. Hanscom Field in Massachusetts, with the Lincoln Labs Radar Astronomy Section at Millstone Hill Radar Observatory. It was a great assignment, a learning experience that I will never forget, a better assignment if I had been a 2nd Lieutenant.

Some of you might remember Lynn; she was a mother for many of my third squadron classmates and a greater supporter of me. I joined the Air Force as soon as I turned 17 in 1952. I had quit High School before I completed the 10th grade and had no direction. The Air Force sent me to radio operator/maintenance school and then assigned me to a Radar Bomb Scoring Detachment in Marrakech, French Morocco in 1953. At Marrakech, we scored B-47 Bomber Crews who were on 90-day overseas TDY’s. I became interested in Radar and learned a lot during that tour. The best thing that happened to me during that assignment was meeting Lynn and falling in love. We were both young (I was 19 and Lynn 18), Lynn’s father was in the Air Force stationed at Ben Guerier AB, where the B-47’s were assigned, and everyone told us we were too young to get married. The Air Force Chaplain at Ben Guerier AB wouldn’t marry us. However, we wouldn’t take no for an answer and were married in 1955 in a French civil ceremony, then in the French Catholic Church in Marrakech, and then finally again at the American Consulate in Casablanca. Three marriage ceremonies over a three-month period!

In 1955 our first son was born at Nourasseur Air Base in Casablanca and I started wondering how a guy who hadn’t finished the 10th grade was going to take care of this family we started. I re-enlisted in the Air Force and went to Radar Maintenance school and then later was assigned to Vandenberg AFB to the 576th Strategic Missile Sq. (ATLAS). Bobby Galbrecht, Jim McReynolds, and myself were all ATLAS Guidance technicians at Vandenberg, and Ron Leonhard was also stationed at Vandenberg. Jerry Hetherington, who was in 60D (1st Squadron), was also at Vandenberg with Bobby, Jim and myself. We all took the OCS test together. Lynn and I thought we had hit the jackpot when my assignment to OCS came through. Lynn’s twin sister had married an F-86 Pilot, whom we both enjoyed being with, and he also inspired me to try for a commission. We had made the commitment to remain in the Air Force and OCS was a step we both wanted to take successfully.

Massachusetts was a great assignment after washing out of OCS, but Lynn and I wanted a commission and we were bound and determined to go back to OCS. I’m sure no one believed we were sane whenever we talked about going back to OCS, but Lynn was certain that going back was possible, and she was the inspiration I needed to do what was required to make it happen. In fact, whenever I got down and thinking I was pursuing an impossible dream, she was there with encouraging words and putting me back in the right frame of mind. Since Comm Skills was my downfall in 60C, I enrolled in English courses at the University of Massachusetts. By September of 1961, I had completed two English courses and received an A in both. I wasted no time in applying for OCS. I passed the qualifying test and sat back and waited. The personnel people said that my chances were not good because no one had ever been re-admitted to OCS after washing out, but I figured that was probably because no one ever tried to get back in. It wasn’t long before my wife and I had the greatest Christmas present we could have received in 1961. I received orders to report to Lackland AFB for OCS class 63A. Our son Patrick (our 5th Child) was born on February 16th, 1962 in Groton, Massachusetts. Two weeks later, a happy Staff Sergeant, a smiling wife, and 5 children set out for the second time to sign up for quarters at Billy Mitchell Village in San Antonio, Texas.

A Lt. Schrader had been the TAC Officer for 3rd Squadron during 60C. When I arrived at the Green Monster for OCS 63A, Capt. Schrader was standing there with 3 or 4 OCS First Class Gentleman. I was nervous of course and when I saw him pointing at me and talking to the OCS First Class, I immediately realized that he remembered me. Those First Class gentlemen accompanied me back to the OCS area where I was assigned to 2nd Squadron. Capt. Schrader was now the 2nd Squadron TAC Officer. I was reminded many times during the next 2 or 3 weeks that washouts shouldn’t be in OCS and that I should just eliminate myself and save them the job of eliminating me. Needless to say, I concentrated on my goal and they finally accepted me. I passed all my academics and did very well in the military grades and was commissioned on 21 September 1962, two years after 60C graduated. Going through OCS twice was quite an experience, I will tell you that.

When I was commissioned in 1962, I had just over 10 years enlisted service and had turned 27 during school. I applied for Pilot training but I needed an age waiver and the Air Force wasn’t cooperating; however, I was accepted for Navigator training. I was assigned to James Connelly AFB in Waco, Texas. This was my only disappointment because if I had graduated with 60C, I would have gone to Pilot training. My brother-in-law was an F-86 pilot and I wanted to fly fighters. But the Air Force decided Navigator training was my assignment and I decided that if I could go to Electronic Warfare Officer training after completing Navigator training, I could put my 10 years experience in Radar Maintenance to good use and that’s exactly what happened. After Navigator Training at James Connelly, I was assigned to Electronic Warfare Officer Training at Mather AFB in California. After Electronic Warfare Training I was assigned as an Electronic Warfare Officer in B-52’s in the 17th Bomb Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. While at Wright-Patterson I was given a Regular Commission and in 1966 was sent to SOS in residence at Maxwell AFB in Alabama and advanced to the Chief of Standboard crew.

In 1968, I was assigned to Okinawa to fly reconnaissance missions in the RC-135M. I was glad to get out of Crew duty in B-52’s and standing alert. On Okinawa, I was flying a Southeast Asia mission called “Combat Apple”. I ended up with 110 missions down south by the summer of 1970 before being assigned back to the states. Prior to leaving Okinawa, I applied for AFIT and was accepted into the Civilian Institute Division to study Electrical Engineering at Auburn University. While I was in school, I was extended to study for my Masters Degree. I was at Auburn for 3 years and received my BSEE in 1972 and MSEE in 1973 and promoted to Major just before graduation. By this time, I had 21 years service and a 9-year commitment to the Air Force. I was assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio again, but this time working in the acquisition area in Air Force Systems Command. As an Electronic Warfare Officer with an MSEE degree, I was assigned to the best job a young Major could have. I became the Chief Avionics Engineer for the F-4G Wild Weasel that was just beginning development. I had 12 engineers working for me on a program that was high visibility in Tactical Air Command. Our program was very successful and everyone was rewarded. I made L/C and selected for Senior Service School in 1978 and assigned to HQ Air Force Systems Command at Andrews AFB in Maryland.

I spent 3 years at Andrews during which time I attended the Defense Systems Management College (DSMC) at Fort Belvoir Virginia. In 1981 I had to make a decision, go to senior service school and pick up another 3-year commitment or turn it down and get ready for retirement. I decided to stay on and was assigned to Fort McNair in Washington to attend the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF) graduating in 1982. I was promoted to Colonel prior to graduation from ICAF and assigned to Tactical Air Warfare Center at Eglin AFB, Florida. However, I was only there 6 months before being assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. In January 1983, I became the Division Chief for the Research, Development and Acquisition of Electronic Warfare, Reconnaissance and Intelligence Equipment. I believe this was the same Division that Mike Gilroy had when he was assigned to the Pentagon in the late 1970s. I had a great staff working for me and my experience at the Pentagon was very positive. During the summer of 1986, I was again forced to make a decision, transfer back to Wright-Patterson AFB as a Program Manager or retire. I had just turned 51 and was tired of moving my family, so after 34 years on active duty, I retired. It wasn’t long after retirement that I realized how much I missed the Air Force. It was my life for so many years and working for a Defense Contractor – on the other side of the fence – was hard to adapt to.

I had many opportunities after retirement and finally went to work for Loral as the firm’s Washington Representative and Director of Electronic Warfare Systems Requirements. When I joined Loral in 1986, they were doing about $600M a year in Defense Sales, a small defense contractor. Ten years later, after numerous acquisitions, they were doing $9.6B in Defense Sales. In 1991 I was promoted to Vice President for Business Development and in 1996 Loral was sold to Lockheed Martin. I remained with Lockheed Martin for three more years finally retiring in 1999. The Air Force was great for me. I quit High School at age 16 before completing the 10th grade, joined the Air Force when I turned 17, and retired at age 51 after a very successful career.

It seems like we were always beating the odds. When Lynn and I met in 1954, we had to get married in the French Catholic Church in Marrakech, because people told us we were too young and the Chaplain at Ben Guerier AB refused to marry us. We will be married 47+ years when we arrive in San Antonio next year. We raised 4 boys and 3 girls, all of whom are themselves enjoying successful careers. Major Moore told me it would be better for me to stay in the enlisted ranks because I probably would not be able to compete with the Academy and OTS graduates. After 34 years I believe I was indeed able to compete with my contemporaries. The personnel people told me I would not be able to go back to OCS and they too were wrong.

Life gives us many opportunities to take different turns that lead us in different directions. I am currently writing a book on The Story of My Life. I won’t publish this book as I’m writing it for my children and grandchildren so they will have the stories and lessons that Lynn and I hold dear to us. In writing the book, I find what are called turning points (“What would have happened if”). What becomes obvious to me in reviewing the past 47 years is what would have happened if I did not have Lynn as my guide. We had many encounters with turning points in our life, which because of Lynn’s tremendous confidence in me allowed us to make the right turn. One of the things I remember about OCS was the orientation they gave to our wives. They were told how our success as Air Force Officers would be tied closely to our wives’ acceptance of our jobs and their continual encouragement to us. Well, Lynn learned her lesson well. There is no doubt in my mind that I could not have accomplished what I did without her. She went to the orientation twice, so maybe she learned the lesson better than most folks did.

Both Lynn and I are looking forward to the Reunion, whether held in San Antonio this September or Atlanta in October 2002. We’ll see you then.