Civilian employee marks 55 years of service to country
August 6, 2009
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- George McClure has served the nation 10 years longer than the average age of depot employees.
Born in 1936, the 55-year veteran, who speaks Vietnamese and Spanish, started his service on Sept. 1, 1953, in the Army.
"When I was in my teen years, the military was a very respected profession amongst my age group," he said. "My father, a World War II Navy veteran, always advocated the military as a career, expressing regret that he had not done so."
When he enlisted, he was selected and assigned to Military Police training and leadership. "We were not given the option to request a particular field; although I enlisted, this was in the days of the draft and they placed us where they deemed fit," he noted.
He rose in the ranks and served in several posts throughout the country and overseas.
"My first duty (as an MP), as in the vernacular "Whitecap," was in Germany, at the tail end of the occupation period. Beautiful country, the people were friendly, the beer was delicious and the girls were lovely. These were major factors in my decision to reenlist."
Despite that quip, McClure took his duties seriously, evidenced by his increasing responsibilities, including an assignment at Fort Dix, N.J., where he served as Military Police operations sergeant, Office of the Provost Marshal. There he helped maintain law and order at a post with a population of 50,000, and served as the functional supervisor of 144 MP patrolmen (called "whitecaps" for their white visor service caps) on three shifts.
Prior to that, he served two tours in Vietnam, the first as squad leader and platoon sergeant, Company C, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division; the second as first sergeant of the 557th MP Company, 95th MP Battalion, 89th MP Group, 18th MP Brigade. He was wounded twice in firefights.
It was as an MP that he had his most interesting and rewarding assignment - as the sergeant major of the 550th Military Police Detachment, 3rd Battalion 7th Special Forces, Canal Zone, Panama.
"We traveled throughout Latin America, teaching police subjects, counterinsurgency, riot control, etc. in the Spanish language," he said. "Additionally, some of us were on jump status and training to become Special Forces qualified and the camaraderie amongst the Special Forces is very close."
McClure retired from active duty in 1974. His numerous awards include not only a Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, but also the Bronze Star Medal, the Vietnamese Service Medal with six major battle stars, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Parachutists Qualification Badge (jump wings).
He would have remained in the Army, however, a health crisis in the family left him with no other option.
"I was not prepared financially or mentally to retire at that time," he said. McClure learned his wife had cancer and he knew the medical facilities in Panama were inadequate. She needed to be back to the States.
He decided to retire when [according to McClure] the Red Cross refused to sanction his emergency leave to the states and his wife refused to go into the hospital until he could get back to care for the children.
"When she was finally operated on, they took out a 20-pound ovarian cyst," he said. "At that time, ovarian cysts were 90 percent fatal. I came to Tobyhanna Army Depot because I missed the military atmosphere and Tobyhanna supplemented that in part."
He joined Tobyhanna Army Depot as a security patrolman in 1975. Now a senior security specialist in the Communications Security Division, Communications Systems Directorate, McClure cannot pin down what he likes best about working here.
"It's hard to define, but I feel maintaining the security of the COMSEC facility is extremely important to support the Warfighter, considering we are the major COMSEC Storage and Repair facility in DoD, supporting all four branches and other major government agencies," he said.
When asked the inevitable question of why 55 years when most people retire at 30 or 35 years, his answer is direct and brief:
"Why not' As I said from the podium when I received the 55 year award; 'I consider it a distinct privilege to work at Tobyhanna Army Depot!'"
At the Length of Service ceremony on July 15, McClure received the Army Superior Civilian award; a Commander's Coin and Four Star note from Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command; a Certificate of Appreciation and Commander Coin; a framed photo of the depot signed by members of the Command Group and co-workers; and a framed front page of an original July 20, 1954, newspaper in honor of his service entry date.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.
About 5,600 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.