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Anthony Ricchiazzi , Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - 08.12.2009
George McClure has served the nation 10 years longer than the average age of his co-workers here.
Born in 1936, McClure, who speaks Vietnamese and Spanish, started his 55 years of 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.
McClure rose in the ranks and served in several posts throughout the country and overseas.
"My first duty ... was in Germany, at the tail end of the occupation period," he said. "Beautiful country, the people were friendly, the beer was delicious, and the girls were lovely. These were major factors in my decision to re-enlist."
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 in the provost marshal's office. There, he helped to 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 distinctive headgear -- on three shifts.
Prior to that, he served two tours in Vietnam: the first as squad leader and platoon sergeant with Company C of the 25th Infantry Division's 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Battalion, and 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.
McClure said his most interesting and rewarding assignment was as the sergeant major of the 550th Military Police Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces, in the Panama Canal Zone.
"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, the Vietnam Service Medal with six major battle stars, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Qualification Badge with jump wings.
McClure said he would have remained in the Army, but felt he had no option other than to retire when his wife was diagnosed with cancer in 1974 and needed to return to the United States for treatment.
"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."
McClure was hired as a security patrolman at Tobyhanna in 1975. "I came to Tobyhanna Army Depot because I missed the military atmosphere, and Tobyhanna supplemented that, in part," he said.
Now a senior security specialist in Tobyhanna's communications security division, McClure said he can't pin down what he likes best about working here, but said he knows his work at the Defense Department's major communications security storage and repair facility -- supporting all service branches and other major government agencies -- is extremely important to support the warfighter.
When asked the inevitable question of why he's worked for 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 July 15 ceremony, McClure received numerous awards and mementoes, including the Army Superior Civilian award; a coin and a note from Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command; a certificate of appreciation and commander's 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.