Update Your Profile

Stay up to date with all West Point news and stay connected with fellow grads

Update your Register Entry

Cullum Files

historical records

Class Notes

login required, available to graduates & widows

2011 Distinguished Graduate Award

Carl H. McNair, Jr. '55

Throughout his distinguished military and civilian business career, Major General Carl H. McNair, Jr. has demonstrated the qualities of selfless service and dedication to his country, to his community, and to West Point. Along the way, he helped shape the future of Army Aviation and mentored an entire generation of Army aviators. In everything he has done, and in everything he is, Carl McNair is the very embodiment of the spirit of West Point and its motto, “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in 1955, General McNair attended flight training and airborne school before serving his initial troop duty with the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Following the Basic Infantry Officer Course and Ranger School, he was assigned as an aviation advisor to the Second Field Army of the Republic of China in MAAG Taiwan. After obtaining a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1963, he served as a Battle Group and Brigade S3, followed by company command with the 1st Cavalry Division along the DMZ in Korea, then returned to the Pentagon for service with the Air Mobility Division in the Office of the Chief of Research and Development. In 1967, he headed for Vietnam where he would log over 1,600 hours of flying time in combat as commander of the 121st Assault Helicopter Company, S3 of the 164th Combat Aviation Group and later, as commander of the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion.

Returning to the United States in 1969, he was assigned to and graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College and the Army War College. He also obtained a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Shippensburg University before serving in the Tactical Department at West Point. Assignments at Fort Hood as Director, Command, Control, and Communications Testing in Project MASSTER and at Fort Rucker where he commanded the Army Aviation Troop Brigade, preceded a three-year tour of duty with the Secretariat and the Army Staff, first as Deputy for Aviation to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (R&D), then as Executive Officer to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development and Acquisition.

With promotion to Brigadier General in 1978, he was assigned duties as the Deputy Director of Requirements and Army Aviation Officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters, Department of the Army. In 1979, he returned to Fort Rucker as Deputy Commanding General and later, Commanding General of the Army Aviation Center. As the first Chief of Army Aviation, he was instrumental in the development of and leading what was then a fledgling branch and paving the way for Army Aviation’s stellar performance in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the Balkans and our current fights in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. General McNair’s long and distinguished military career culminated in assignment to the Training and Doctrine Command where he first served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Combat Developments and later as Chief of Staff. His retirement from the Army in 1987 as a Major General ended 32 years of distinguished service. By the end of his career, Army Aviation was recognized as an indispensable element in the combined arms team and became a full-fledged combat arms branch with a Combat

Aviation Brigade proudly serving in all Army Divisions. In 2004, he was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame. A former Army Chief of Staff aptly described his career this way: “He has led American soldiers with courage and commitment in both peace and war, and was repeatedly cited for his valor in combat against the enemies of our nation.”

Immediately following his retirement from military service, he immersed himself in challenging assignments in the private sector, holding leadership positions with Burdeshaw Associates, DynCorp, and later Computer Sciences Corporation. As a current member of the Board of Directors of Air Methods Corporation, the nation’s largest provider of air medical emergency transport services and systems, he provides valuable advice and strategic insights on the best use of helicopters in the critical field of aero-medical evacuation. He also serves as an expert witness and provides assistance in accident investigation to industry and government agencies.

His pastor is quoted as saying, “Carl lives every day as if he is fulfilling a duty that will take a lifetime to complete and it is his highest honor to finish the assignment with his best effort.” Whether it is serving his local church, visiting veteran’s hospitals, providing leadership to charitable organizations like the Red Cross and Easter Seals or simply mentoring young people, he approaches life with enthusiasm and a desire to raise people up. He has also voluntarily taken on major leadership roles in the Army Aviation Association of America, the Association of the US Army, the Army Historical Foundation and the National Defense Industrial Association. His exemplary work with the Arlington National Cemetery Commemorative Project resulted in the creation of the books Where Valor Rests – Arlington National Cemetery and For Children of Valor, memorial gifts now presented by a grateful Army to the families who have lost loved ones in the defense of freedom.

General McNair has also served his alma mater over the decades with great energy and skill in many roles. He was the senior Army member of the Flight Memorial Fundraising Committee, member of the West Point Fund Committee for the AOG Board of Trustees, Vice President then President of the West Point Society of the District of Columbia, Washington Liaison for AOG and the Board of Trustees and President of the Class of 1955.

Throughout his career as a soldier and citizen, he has brought honor to the Military Academy, our Army and to our country. Accordingly, the West Point Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2011 Distinguished Graduate Award to Carl H. McNair, Jr., Class of 1955.