By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public AffairsJuly 13, 2016
NATICK, Mass. (July 13, 2016) -- For decades, John Mahon -- a retired CW4 and a senior airdrop equipment specialist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center -- has managed to turn a love of jumping out of airplanes into a distinguished career, making an invaluable contribution to the airdrop community and the airborne Soldier.
Mahon has worked in airdrop for more than 46 years. In the military he started out as a private and then worked his way up to E-7 and then to chief warrant officer, CW-4. After retiring from the Army, Mahon began working in various airdrop positions at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
"I served for almost 31 years in the military," said Mahon. "And I started here in 2000, so I've been here (NSRDEC) for 16 years this past March. One of the benefits of all this experience is hopefully guiding and mentoring new generations to give them some historical background about what has worked and what hasn't -- and at the same time making recommendations to hopefully ensure success."
Mahon was recently inducted into the Quartermaster Hall of Fame, one of only five people in the airdrop technical specialty area to earn that honor.
"Without Soldiers supporting my fellow workers and me in my office I would be just another worker bee," said Mahon. "It's a great honor to be singled out but really it is the culmination of the work of a whole lot of people. I resisted it actually because I know so many people who in my estimation contributed so much more."
"We are extremely proud to have John Mahon recognized and inducted into the Quartermaster Hall of Fame," said Richard Benney, director of the NSRDEC Aerial Delivery Directorate. "John has supported, and continues to support, the warfighter every day with his extensive knowledge and experience related to all aspects of aerial delivery. John's contributions to the Quartermaster profession, while in uniform and as a civilian at the NSRDEC, are too numerous to list. We are confident that he will continue to make significant contributions and improvements to the Quartermaster and Aerial Delivery community."
The Quartermaster Corps is the Army's oldest logistics branch. Some of its areas of responsibility include general supply, mortuary affairs, subsistence, petroleum and water, material distribution and management, field services and repair, and aerial delivery. The Quartermaster Hall of Fame recognizes retired civilians and retired members of the military who have made significant contributions to the Quartermaster Corps.
The program from the Quartermaster Hall of Fame ceremony, said of Mahon: "This highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm has brought great credit to the Quartermaster Corps throughout his 46 years of total service. His greatest contributions have been in developing aerial delivery capabilities, training air drop techniques to the U.S. Army Parachute Riggers and developing Quartermaster leaders for our Army.
CW4 Mahon was assigned to the legendary 'Screaming Eagles' of the 101st Airborne Division in Phu Bai, Republic of Vietnam, where his primary role was aerial delivery resupply and sling load operations. He spent time with the 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa, Japan, and the 10th Special Forces Group in Bad Tolz, Germany. In 2006, Mr. Mahon deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan to provide technical supervision of the Low Cost/Low Altitude airdrop resupply system, a relatively new concept in cargo airdrop resupply. He flew 10 operational missions during his time in country and now has over 46 years on jump status with over 1100 parachute jumps."
Mahon served for five years in the 82nd Airborne and was an instructor at Fort Lee. He was also a test jumper for C-17 and C-130J aircraft.
"Based on my experience and operational background, I do a lot of special project work," said Mahon. "I also provide technical assistance to outside agencies. I assist the engineers with their quality assurance work. I do technical data package modifications as needed. I analyze quality deficiency issues with equipment that's been fielded to operational units. And I field a lot of questions from the field."
He also helps bridge communication between engineers and operational users in order to devise and communicate resolutions to problems, based on the knowledge of both groups.
"In the 13 years I've worked with John, I've found him to be consistent and tireless in his dedication to ensure that we have safe and reliable equipment for our Soldiers," said Christine Charette, a textile technologist (parachutes) on NSRDEC's Aerial Delivery Engineering Support Team, or ADEST. "But he doesn't stop there, he holds each of his ADEST coworkers to the same standards, ensuring a high bar for the whole team. He spends a huge amount of time mentoring civilian subject matter experts on ADEST to help us understand the real-world perspective of the Soldiers that use the equipment we work with. I could have great lab-based data or what I would consider a well thought out theory, but after discussing it with John I'd likely come away with a new way of looking at the problem or a more complete resolution."
"The one thing about jumping out of airplanes is that gravity always works," said Mahon. "Gravity always wins. So, if you are going to tempt gravity, you better have a good parachute."
"I'm glad John is getting some spotlight," said Charette. "We are lucky to have him. There are few people that have the experience and knowledge to be a clear litmus test for whether or not you have a good idea or solution to a problem. John is one of those people. If you can't get a thumbs up from him, you know that you better go back and do some more thinking."
After decades of working with parachutes, what is still Mahon's favorite part of his job?
"Jumping out of airplanes," said Mahon. "It was one of the main reasons I joined the military in 1969. I was extremely fortunate to find a job after my military career that continues to allow me to do that. I don't get to jump as often as I like but I still jump three or four times a year."
"Working with someone like John, with his extensive experience in all things relating to Army parachutes, is invaluable to a civilian subject matter expert like me," said Charette. "Honestly, the man lives and breathes parachutes, and I am not at all surprised that he is now in the Fort Lee Hall of Fame, in addition to the Rigger Hall of Fame."
"When I jump I am having as much fun in 2016 as I was having in 1969," said Mahon. "Every jump is different. You have to be aware. I've been very fortunate. I've had no major jump incidents. But that experience, and having lived those scenarios, is invaluable to the work that we do and for understanding deployments. It reinforces the idea that we need to make sure the equipment we make is safe, reliable and capable."
The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.