Partial Transcript: Kennelly: You came here, and you were studying math. When you got into the Corps, did you think of yourself as a pioneer joining the Corps?
McDonald: Yes, because we were the first ones, and we felt more like specimens. We were kind of put under a microscope, and everything we did, everyone was watching in the Corps.
Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Have you followed the news about the Citadel and VMI? What are your thought as you see what's happening in those schools from your own experiences?
McDonald: I think they are going to have a lot harder time integrating because there is no civilian populous.
Keywords: Citadel, VMI, Integration
Partial Transcript: Kennelly: When you were in the military, did you feel that being a woman held you back from pursuing something's you would've liked to pursue?
McDonald: Not really, it was amazing. They were still trying to get used to women, even when I went in, and women had been in for a while, they were still getting used to women being in the military.
Tamara Kennelly: Where are you from?
Cheryl Butler MacDonald: Originally from Norfolk, Virginia. My father was in the Air Force, and we did a lot of traveling around, and he eventually retired in Norfolk, but I'm originally from Norfolk.
Kennelly: What did your mother do?
MacDonald: She was a housewife the whole 20 years my father was in.
Kennelly: You grew up with the military?
MacDonald: Yes, I did.
Kennelly: Was it something that always drew you or--?
MacDonald: Not really. It was always fun as a kid traveling around seeing new places and meeting new people and different cultures and everything. But when I came here, I had absolutely no plans to go into the military at all.
Kennelly: Why did you come to Virginia Tech?1:00
MacDonald: I liked the reputation of the school, and I was going for a math major at the time, and it seemed to have a good math program and engineering type program which I was interested in.
Kennelly: Where did you go to high school?
MacDonald: My first few years were out in California because my father was still in, and he came back my senior year, and it was in Virginia Beach at Bayside High School.
Kennelly: So when you were growing up, were you all over the world, or just all over the United States, or did you just do a lot of traveling?
MacDonald: We did a lot of traveling, I spent some of my elementary school years were spent here in Virginia in the Tidewater area. Part were spent in New Mexico. Junior high were spent in Okinawa, and my early high school years were in California, and my father retired back to Virginia for my last year.2:00
Kennelly: So were you going to military base schools?
MacDonald: Not all of the time. When we were here, I went to public schools. When we were overseas, I went to military schools, and I went to military schools when I was in New Mexico. But my high school was just in the local neighborhood, and they just bused us.
Kennelly: So you were bused when you went to school?
MacDonald: From the base yes, but all the kids were bused from the base to the high school. It wasn't that far away, but it was the closest high school.
Kennelly: Was it a pretty well-integrated school?
Kennelly: So you were used to an integrated community and school.
MacDonald: Yes, pretty much.
Kennelly: Do you have brothers and sisters?
MacDonald: Yes, I'm the oldest of four kids. I have one sister that is a yearyounger than I am, and then two brothers, one three years younger and the other is seven years younger.
Kennelly: Did anyone else decide to go into the military?3:00
MacDonald: My youngest brother.
Kennelly: What did he do?
MacDonald: He is still in, and he is an emergency medical technician.
Kennelly: In what branch?
MacDonald: He went in the Air Force.
Kennelly: So it wasn't like you were in one community when you were growing up.
MacDonald: No, we traveled and went a lot of different places.
Kennelly: Why did you join the Corps of Cadets?
MacDonald: It's really weird. When I was a freshman, one Friday afternoon, afriend of mine when I was living in West AJ [Ambler Johnston], asked me if I wanted to go take the qualifying exam for the Air Force ROTC program. And I said, when is it? She said, Saturday morning. And I wasn't doing anything Saturday morning, so we went and took the exam, and I scored fairly high on it, and I said, well I really don't know what I want to do, so maybe I'll join the Corps. And that was probably the reason why I joined.
Kennelly: So had you been at Tech for a whole year?
MacDonald: Yes, I had gone through my first semester, and it was right after Christmas.
Kennelly: And you joined then?4:00
MacDonald: No I went through a whole year, 'cause they didn't even allow women until the following year.
Kennelly: And did your friend go in?
MacDonald: No, she didn't. I was the only one. She did want to go, and I was the only one that went. I just went along to be with her, but she never went in.
Kennelly: Was she black?
MacDonald: No, she was white.
Kennelly: So you had a year of being a student at Tech before you even went into the Corps. What was your experience that first year as far as the racial climate at Tech?
MacDonald: I guess I didn't have that many problems with it. I had grown up in an integrated environment, so I didn't have any adjustments to make. Some people did, but it didn't even occur to me to treat people differently because they are black or white.5:00
Kennelly: Well, were there--
MacDonald: And I never had anything directed towards me. I was just a dumbfreshman, like all the other dumb freshmen there that year.
Kennelly: And was your roommate black or white?
MacDonald: She was black, but the school paired us up like that. It wasn'tbecause of preference on her or my part.
Kennelly: So the school automatically paired by race, it seemed?
MacDonald: Yes, it did.
Kennelly: As far as, let's say eating, were you eating with a mixed racial group of black and white?
MacDonald: Yes. I ate with the girls that were on my floor 'cause I knew thembetter than I did anyone else. And maybe some people out of my classes. But no, I didn't pick a group to sit with just because they were black or because they weren't.
Kennelly: So it didn't seem difficult to you that you were a minority? Did you6:00feel lonely?
MacDonald: Not really, I knew I was there because I was a minority, but thatdidn't seem to make too much of a difference.
Kennelly: Were you recruited to come to Tech? Did you get a scholarship?
MacDonald: I got a scholarship once I got up here. I wasn't actively recruited, no.
Kennelly: Was it a Rockefeller scholarship?
MacDonald: I don't think so, it was a work study scholarship.
Kennelly: What about the town? Did you feel comfortable in the town ofBlacksburg and how the people treated you downtown?
MacDonald: Oh yes. I never noticed anything. I really didn't experience racism in the military until I was stationed down South. And that's when it really struck me. Even when we were living here and even in Norfolk, there were black sections of town, but no one would refuse to serve you. I ran into that in Florida.7:00
Kennelly: What happened down there?
MacDonald: I had gone into a store in the mall to buy something. I was the only customer in there, and another lady came in, and I needed some help with something, and the salesperson just refused to even work with me, and she helped the other lady, so I just left.8:00
Kennelly: But there was never a feeling here of that when you were a student?
Kennelly: What about--did you go to dances when you were here?
MacDonald: I went to a few, and parties and stuff. But they were all black/white parties. I did go to a lot of parties where I was the only black person there, and I went to some where there were no whites at all. I was just kind of one of the gang 'cause they were used to me hanging out with them.9:00
Kennelly: Did you have any white male friends? Would you have felt comfortable going out with a white male if you'd wanted to?
MacDonald: I imagine so, yes.
Kennelly: That didn't happen though, here?
MacDonald: No, not here it didn't.
Kennelly: You came here, and you were studying math. When you got into the Corps, did you think of yourself as a pioneer joining the Corps?
MacDonald: Yes, because we were the first ones, and we felt more like specimens. We were kind of put under a microscope, and everything we did, everyone was watching in the Corps. And I think on campus too. We were kind of a novelty item. I remember when we would drill, and we'd happen to leave the ladies people would be like, oh, look at the ladies. We just created a sensation because we were something new.
Kennelly: Did you find that difficult being under the microscope?
MacDonald: It was frustrating at times because no one knew exactly what they wanted us to do, so it was kind of hard to take direction when every time you turned around, the direction changed.10:00
Kennelly: I read this paper that one of the other women of the Corps wrote, and she said that when you would go down to eat meals, you wouldn't know from one day to the next whether you should have your hair up or down. Did you find that difficult?
MacDonald: It wasn't difficult in so much that it was frustrating, you know,because we didn't have a standard. Well, we did have a standard we were trying to set, but nobody knew what it was because they couldn't figure out whether they wanted us to emphasize being feminine or de-emphasize it.
Kennelly: So just sort of a basic thing of whether you express your femininityin a sense with your hair and stuff, and your dress? Is that what you're saying?
MacDonald: Back then, you know, we didn't, we didn't. When we first started off, we weren't allowed to wear pants. We had to wear the skirts and heels. Which was ridiculous to march in and stuff like that. And when we got pants, it was the most wonderful thing. We just loved it. And the cut of the uniforms had to be feminine. They didn't want to put us in the Corps uniform because it was too masculine looking, and the color was unflattering. There was a whole bunch of emphasis placed on the fact that we were women.11:00
Kennelly: I noticed in the pictures they're very short skirts, but I know thatwas the style, too, of the time. But there was a lot of leg--
MacDonald: Oh yes, and we had a regulation. They could be so high and so low. They could be between two inches above the knee to four inches above the knee or something like that. We had a specified height they could be at above the knee.
Kennelly: And everything was?
MacDonald: Yes, it was fairly uniform.12:00
Kennelly: Where were you living when you were in the Corps?
MacDonald: I was in Monteith.
Kennelly: And were all the women there?
Kennelly: Was that partly a civilian dorm?
MacDonald: Yes, we had the first floor and the other three floors were civilian.
Kennelly: Was that difficult having a mixture of civilians and women in the Corps?
MacDonald: At times, because we were a lot more restrictive than the civilianpopulation was. So we had lights out at ten o'clock, and weekends they had to have passes and stuff in order to leave, and the civilians were running out of the dorms at all times, and we couldn't have guys visiting and the civilians could. And so it was sometimes hard to explain to the underclassmen why the restrictions were there just because they were in the Corps.
Kennelly: So it would be hard to have lights out when people were--
MacDonald: Well we'd have the lights out, and it was an adjustment on the part of the civilian population in the dorm, too, because they weren't used to having the Corps there. So they had to learn to adjust to us and quit making fun of the fact that, oh, you guys have to be in bed by ten o'clock, which they did.13:00
Kennelly: So they would give you a hard time?
MacDonald: Some of them did, some were pretty understanding, some of them just looked at us like we were crazy, like, why are you putting yourself through this? But it was a learning experience. And after the first semester, they got used to the fact that the women were in the Corps and they were there, and it made it a lot easier for all of us.
Kennelly: Did the women in the Corps tend to sort of stay together, like notmingle that much in Monteith?
MacDonald: Yes, I think so.
Kennelly: And when you joined the Corps, you must have known people from the first year. Did you maintain those friendships?
MacDonald: I maintained some of them, but it was nowhere near as close because I couldn't get out all the time and do all the stuff. Like I couldn't go to all the parties and stuff. I couldn't just take off on a whim to go shopping because we had the pass system where you weren't allowed to leave the campus unless you had a legitimate reason for leaving. And as a civilian, you don't have that restriction. If you feel like going downtown to go shopping anytime that you didn't have class and sometimes even if you had class, you could do that. But the Corps you weren't allowed to do that, and the common interests weren't there anymore. We had classes in common. But we were in the Corps, and that was so much different than being a civilian, and that was kind of hard sometimes to keep track of the friends that you made freshmen year.14:00
Kennelly: So when you went to classes, did you tend to sit with people who were also members of the Corps?
Kennelly: You would just sit wherever? It didn't matter?15:00
MacDonald: Well, for us I came in the Corps as a sophomore, and there were only three other sophomore females in the Corps, and all of us were taking different disciplines, so we never had any classes together. And the males in the Corps we didn't know and some were really resentful of the fact that we were in there. So why put up with that hassle? I'll just go sit with the people I already know, and I don't care if they are Corps or not.
Kennelly: Were you ever hassled by any of the men?
MacDonald: Not hassled so much as you got the feeling that sometimes they didn't want you to be there.
Kennelly: How would they express that?
MacDonald: Well, they would come out right in the meeting and say that they felt their standards were being lowered because women were in the Corps and we weren't physically as capable as they were, and we couldn't take all the Corps discipline stuff. They're just afraid of change.
Kennelly: Why do you think they admitted women to the Corps?
MacDonald: I think it was a numbers game. Corps manning was going down, and they needed to get some numbers in. And plus with the climate back then--women's lib and all that good stuff--I think they decided particularly with the services starting to integrate more with the females in the military that they wanted to bring women into the Corps so they could start being in the military more.16:00
Kennelly: The military itself was starting to accept more women?
MacDonald: Yes, because the Air Force Academy--I was in the Air Force ROTC--the Air Force Academy started taking women in 1975. And, I don't know, we were like a pilot program for them or not.
Kennelly: So were any of the staff advisors you had, were any of them women?
MacDonald: Yes, we had a female advisor. She helped us put our uniforms together.
Kennelly: Was she helpful to you with dealing with the problems you were facing?17:00
MacDonald: Yes, she kept things really calm, and everyone really respected her. She was a nice influence.
Kennelly: Were there any black advisors or any black regimental staff?
MacDonald: My first year no. My second year the regimental XO [executive officer] was black.
Kennelly: Was that an improvement?
MacDonald: Oh, I thought he was an idiot. Not because he was black. Just because of his person. It didn't really change things that much.
Kennelly: Did you all eat in Monteith?
MacDonald: We ate in the dining hall with the guys, we stood formation, and we marched into the dining hall just like all the other units.
Kennelly: How was that when you were eating? Did the guys tend to hassle you?18:00
MacDonald: Some of the stuff was kind of petty. We ate in the dining hall. We ate on the lower level. You came in on the upper level, and then you had to go down stairs to eat. And going downstairs in skirts--first we were standing against the outside railing along with everyone else, but everyone could just look up and look underneath the skirts, so we had to scoot over to the inside railing. It wasn't really a hassle. It was just kind of childish.
Kennelly: So they wouldn't actually say anything?
MacDonald: No, because each squadron was responsible for disciplining their own squadron members. The freshmen rats were being taught all the rules and regulations, so their eating habits were really prescribed, so you had to take a bite of food, put your fork completely down, chew your food, and then you could pick up your fork again take another bite. I mean it was really restricted. So most of the emphasis and the attention for the individual squadrons and companies was placed on getting their folks into the military mind set and following regulations. So they didn't pay that much attention to us once we got in.19:00
Kennelly: What about you then? You were coming as a sophomore, so it would be odd to be a rat as a sophomore. Did you ever feel like you were a rat?
MacDonald: We had maybe a day of being a rat, and they had to have an upper class for the female freshmen.
Kennelly: So there were three of you?
MacDonald: No, there were seven of us. There were three juniors and four sophomores.
Kennelly: So suddenly you became upper class?
Kennelly: So did you ever experience the rat system?
Kennelly: And then did you try to enforce the rat system on the underclassmen?
MacDonald: Yes, they have what they call Cadre Week--the week prior to thefreshmen getting here when the upperclassmen come back, the ones that are going be responsible for the rat system. So all the upperclassmen L Squadron were there so we could learn what the rat system was, and how to enforce it.
Kennelly: So what kind of things did you enforce then?
MacDonald: It was teaching the girls how to march, how to wear the uniform,setting up the regulations, setting up the squadron because we really didn't even have a chance to set up the squadron because we were just brought in prior to the freshmen rats being on campus. So we were doing a lot of different things to try to set L Squadron up because we were going to function as a squadron and nobody knew exactly how that was going be. Everybody had different ideas of how it should be. We spent a lot of time just trying to find ourselves and to learn how to function as a squadron as well as learn all the Corps regulations and teach the freshmen all the Corps regulations. That's what the rat system is. It teaches the freshmen. It's a water hose where you get all this information thrown at you. There was a little bit of yelling but not too much. We were a lot less abusive than the men were. 22:0021:00
Kennelly: Did you make them do the thing about making them put the fork down?
MacDonald: Yes, they learned how to do that. It was a form of learning to take orders and discipline, and plus as a freshmen, you had to make eye contact with the person across from you. You couldn't talk unless you were given permission to talk, or you were asked a direct question, and you could give the direct answer. You couldn't just carry on a conversation with the people sitting next to you or across the table from you.
Kennelly: I think in that one paper I read the woman said something aboutgetting in trouble for sign language?
Kennelly: Because people would do that, and it wasn't allowed either?
Kennelly: So you would be enforcing--
MacDonald: Yes, on our freshmen.
Kennelly: Was that difficult to enforce that since you hadn't been through that yourself?23:00
MacDonald: No, not really. We knew what the regulations were, and we were bound and determined that our male counterparts were not going find anything wrong with our freshmen system. Plus the girls didn't want to be embarrassed because they knew they were under the gun just like the rest of us were, so they were going do their best to follow the regulations, but, you know, they had their friendships and would try to get away with stuff.
Kennelly: Your first year, who was the commander?
MacDonald: Debbie Noss.
Kennelly: Did you have a position that year?
MacDonald: I did, and I've been racking my brain trying to think of what it was. But yes, I did.
Kennelly: And you became commander the following year?
Kennelly: Did you feel welcomed to the Corps, as an individual?
MacDonald: Pretty much. Within L Squadron I was thoroughly welcomed. I was just an oddity cause I was a female member to the Corps. Some people made you feel more welcomed than others.
Kennelly: Was there any camaraderie between you and the other black males in the Corps?
Kennelly: They didn't try to support you in a different way than they wouldanyone else?
MacDonald: No, not really.
Kennelly: So there wasn't a connection with that or anything?
MacDonald: No, I was dating a guy that was in the Corps. He was in one of the other squadrons, and I was dating him. He came in the same year I did. We were both freshmen, and we both joined our sophomore year.
Kennelly: So did he give you a hard time about being in the Corps?
MacDonald: Well, it was kind of funny because I came in as an upperclassman and he came in as a rat. Even though he was a sophomore according to the college, he was still new to the Corps system, so for people who come in their second and third year they still go through a modified rat system. It's not as long. They have to go for a month where the rats go for an entire semester before they get "turned" and become human beings. I was an upperclassman and was given upper-class status, and he was still a lowly rat even though we were both sophomores.25:00
Kennelly: So you had rank over him?
MacDonald: Yes, I did.
Kennelly: Did he ever mention anything about the racial climate of the Corps, as far as his perception of it?
MacDonald: There were some people who were a little racist. But I never hadanybody ever come in my face and say I don't like you because you're black. It was more I don't want you here because you're female as opposed to you're black. 26:00
Kennelly: Did you ever hear about the "Midnight Dixie" ritual? Supposedly theHighty Tighties at midnight would play Dixie songs that would be offensive to black people?
MacDonald: Well, I didn't like "Dixie." I don't remember them playing it atnight, but they were on the other side of the quadrant from us. They could've done that. I don't know.
Kennelly: But it wasn't some sort of thing that was happening that you heard about?27:00
MacDonald: No, he didn't mention that. I knew he had a hard time occasionally because he was black.
Kennelly: Was he rooming with a white person?
MacDonald: Yes, he was. But he and his roommate got along great.
Kennelly: So it was--
MacDonald: Yes, and not so much within his squadron, but other people in the Corps.
Kennelly: Would they make comments?
MacDonald: I don't think they ever made comments to his face like calling him boy and stuff like that. There were comments that were made behind his back that he would get word of that people would bring to him.
Kennelly: So would it be like offensive language?
MacDonald: It'd be more of the fact that he is black and in the Corps andsubstandard race.
Kennelly: Painful and make you angry?28:00
MacDonald: It was disturbing because it was like, look at us for who we are and not because the fact that we are black or white or Asian or Hispanic or whatever.
Kennelly: So did you feel funny because you were the only black woman in the Corps?
Kennelly: Just because of being a woman?
MacDonald: Being a woman was tough enough. We were all just sort of lumped together. I wasn't singled out. It was more of a gender thing.
Kennelly: How did you find the professors here? Did you feel that theyparticularly reached out to you, or were helpful or welcoming, from the point of view of being a student? 29:00
MacDonald: Most of them were pretty good. I enjoyed most of the professors of most of the classes. The computer programming course I took I didn't like 'cause it was in a huge auditorium, and when you have a huge class, it's hard to get individual attention from the professor.
Kennelly: Did you feel anybody especially made the special effort?
MacDonald: Oh, yes. When I switched over to art a lot of my art teachers were really good to us.
Kennelly: You switched to art?
MacDonald: Yes, my junior year. I had always liked art. I had taken some artclasses before, and I decide to switch over.
Kennelly: And were you happy with the switch?
MacDonald: Yes, oh yes.
Kennelly: Pretty big switch from math to art.
MacDonald: I enjoyed art. It was an entirely different class of people. It was as different from the Corps as you could possibly get.30:00
Kennelly: Were there any other Corps people in art?
MacDonald: I don't remember too many.
Kennelly: That would be a totally different population with respect to the Corps.
MacDonald: Yes, it's unstructured as opposed to structured.
Kennelly: Did you feel that you were a part of the Corps as a whole, or did you feel the L Squadron was over there and not--
MacDonald: The first year I didn't feel like we were that much a part of theCorps. The next two years I think everyone else was more used to us being there so we weren't an afterthought like we were the first year in a lot of cases. 31:00
Kennelly: It sounded like you had to work out a lot of the standards foryourselves in a sense. It wasn't like when you hear now in the media women going to the Citadel or at VMI [Virginia Military Institute] where they are trying to do a lot of things like the men with the hair and uniforms. You had to work out your standards.
MacDonald: We had the Corps standards, and we tried to adjust to them as much as we could. But in the instance of the uniforms, there were no uniforms for women, so we had to figure out what we wanted to wear and how we were going get it and stuff. I was looking at some pictures, and you could see the different phases where some of the people would have some of the uniform parts and other people wouldn't. I have one picture where all the upper-class were in their jackets and the freshmen were in short sleeves because we got here first so our jackets got made first.32:00
Kennelly: Was the uniform the biggest problem of dealing with standards?
MacDonald: It was probably the most physical and dress because we were entirely different from the guys, so they didn't know what to do with us. So we were like, Do we wear makeup? Do we not wear makeup? If you do, how heavy should the makeup be? What color should it be? Again, hair up, down, short, long. And I remember that we made the decision that we were going follow the Air Force standards at the time which was basically it could touch until it got to the collar edge at the bottom or you could wear it up, and if you wore it up it had to be neat. But we looked to the military services for a lot of stuff for uniform wear and dressing appearance, because the Corps didn't have anything for us to look to. All we knew was that they weren't going put us in the Corps uniforms.33:00
Kennelly: What about standards as far as physical stuff?
MacDonald: It was different, because we knew there were certain things that we couldn't do, so yes, we modified like the run. On the run, they did like twomiles; we did like a mile and a half. When we had to do the physical part of it. But we drilled just like they did. We learned the same formations, the same steps. We spent as much time out on the drill field as the men did. We didn't do all the excessive push-ups as the men did, but we did have a physical conditioning program for the women, but it wasn't as stringent as the men. 34:00
Kennelly: So you wouldn't have to carry the same amount of pounds as the men, something like that?
MacDonald: Well, we really didn't carry equipment. We couldn't carry rifles. We couldn't carry sabers because we were female. So we never learned the really neat handling things like how to handle the rifle. That was one thing we all regretted was that none of us got to carry senior sabers our senior years, or our senior cape.
Kennelly: You didn't have a senior cape?
MacDonald: Not the first couple years, we didn't.
Kennelly: 'Cause they wanted to keep that for themselves?
MacDonald: I guess because our uniform was so different. I guess it was hard for them to imagine us having some of the same uniform parts. Like we finally got a wind breaker and it was gray, but it was specifically made for us, but it was built up on the pattern for the men's wind breaker, but we got that my senior year. And the capes were kind of hard to come by. They didn't have that many. It was like you rented it for the year and turn it back in.35:00
Kennelly: Do you think the fact that you grew up with your father in the military that would make it easier for you to get into the ideas of the Corps and to deal with it and understand it?
MacDonald: I think yes. I think so.
Kennelly: Were many women of the Corps from a family where the parents had been military?
MacDonald: Yes, I would think that there would be thirty percent where thefathers or brothers were in the military.
Kennelly: So the other thing is you would come in with just an understanding of the discipline?36:00
MacDonald: Yes, a lot of us when we came in had an understanding of having discipline and for having rules and regulations. Maybe we didn't agree with them all of the time, but we at least had an understanding of why we had to do it.
Kennelly: So that was something through growing up that you had a sense of, just from things your father had said, and understanding of how things worked, that you picked up as a kid? Would that be right to say that?
MacDonald: Yes, because they kind of ran their households the way they were ran in the military, somewhat strict. My father was strict but not real strict. He was pleased when some of us did go into the military, but it was no requirement. We didn't have to have the military haircuts, but he enforced discipline.
Kennelly: Well, what did he think when you went into the military?
MacDonald: He thought it was great.37:00
Kennelly: But he didn't think differently because you were a woman?
MacDonald: No. He was enlisted in the military, and I went in as an officer. He thought that was great because I was one of the first officers in the family, the entire extended family.
Kennelly: So that is an honor?
Kennelly: When you got into the Corps, did you attend the school dances then?
MacDonald: Yes, I attended a few because I had the steady boyfriend, so we would sometimes go to dances, but we really didn't go to that many.
Kennelly: Were you involved in any organizations?
MacDonald: I was on the women's track team my junior and senior year. For my work-study, I worked in the student art gallery.38:00
Kennelly: All the time, you worked in the student art gallery?
Kennelly: So that may have helped you decide to switch your major?
MacDonald: Yes, I enjoyed that. I had always been interested in art, and I hadbeen fairly good at it.
Kennelly: Did you do a lot with track?
MacDonald: Yes, oh yes. I competed in all the meets. I think, I don't remember when women started running track at Tech, but it wasn't too much before I joined.39:00
Kennelly: Was that an integrated team?
Kennelly: Was there a good feeling with the team?
MacDonald: We were all jocks. There weren't that many of us. My first year there were only ten of us, and then it expanded after that when we got more accepted, and we'd go to off-campus meets and compete against other schools, and we were a team, and we were out to win.
Kennelly: I think Emily said you did quite well on the track.
MacDonald: Yes, I enjoyed it. I did the sprints, and the high jump, and the relays.
Kennelly: So the Corps would make exceptions for you to go on the meets and travel with the team?40:00
MacDonald: Yes, if any of the Corps were in school recognized functions, then we could always get passes to do them. We never got any hassle off of that. And I had to have a pass for my work study too, so they knew where I was.
Kennelly: Was it hard to fit all of that in with the Corps?
MacDonald: My junior year, the first semester was kind of difficult.
Kennelly: Because that's when you became a commander?
Kennelly: How was that, being a commander? Was that difficult?
MacDonald: It was challenging.
Kennelly: In what way was it challenging?
MacDonald: Well, the biggest problem was even though we were a separate squadron, we had a lot of outside help and opinions on how we should be doing things even after the first year, and you would sit at the staff meeting and say, well, such and such squadron thinks we should be doing this and it happened to be her boyfriend. So she would say I don't care, we are not going do that just because his squadron or his company may do that, we're going do it because we're L Squadron and that's the way we want to do it, not because someone else wants us to do it. So it was frustrating in that regard, 'cause of a lot of outside interference. Outside of L Squadron, a lot of pressure was put on by their boyfriends that were within the Corps to conform to how that certain unit did certain functions. It was inside the Corps, but it was outside of L Squadron.42:0041:00
Kennelly: But it was spoken through the women in L Squadron?
MacDonald: Right, as opposed to being brought up in, say, commanders' meetings. I wasn't really told how to run my squadron.
Kennelly: Well, now when you went to a commanders' meeting and you at that point were a junior, were the male commanders of the other squadrons seniors mostly?
MacDonald: Yes, you had to be a senior to be a commander.
Kennelly: Did they resent the fact that you were a junior?
MacDonald: Well they couldn't really, 'cause I don't think until '77 we had a senior commander. Debbie was a junior, and we lost one of the juniors between our first and second year, and they made me a commander, and I was a junior, and then I couldn't be a commander the next year, and then we lost another from my class--well two from my class--and the other one didn't want to be an officer, didn't want to have a senior rank. She was more interested in her college pursuits. She was in chemistry. So she didn't want to be commander, so they looked to juniors again and they made exceptions for us. We were granted senior status. So they were used to dealing with juniors in the command position from the L Squadron.43:00
Kennelly: You were coming in as a junior and as a woman and as a black woman. Did you feel accepted? Was there any problem with that?
MacDonald: I didn't have that many problems with the other commanders.
Kennelly: So they weren't ignoring you or anything like that.
Kennelly: I really don't know how it works, but when you would meet with them, you felt like you were treated like an equal?
Kennelly: Why do you think you were chosen to be the commander? Was it because people fell out, or did they recognize that you had leadership?44:00
MacDonald: I think that they recognized I had leadership more than anything.
Kennelly: Did you enjoy having the role as commander?
MacDonald: It was challenging. It was fun at times. Sometimes it was hard work. Sometimes it was frustrating but I think I would've rather gone through the experience as opposed to not have gone through it. And to me it was an honor to be named as commander.
Kennelly: Was the hardest part dealing with those voices that wanted it to be a certain way?
MacDonald: No, believe it or not, that wasn't the hardest part. The hardest part was my executive officer, the girls didn't really like that much, so there was a lot of tension because of that dislike. So we had a lot of internal problems that year in that regard.45:00
Kennelly: So the executive officer is another student officer?
MacDonald: Right, who is also second in command of the unit.
Kennelly: So it was something about the way that person was--
MacDonald: Right. She was a heavy smoker, and she would get up in your face, and very abrasive at times. Unfortunately, I had no say in the fact that she was my XO. The only say I had was that I wasn't going to room with her because she was a heavy smoker, and I couldn't stand to be in that type of atmosphere.
Kennelly: And you had a choice of whom you could room with?
MacDonald: Yes. It was more tradition that the XO and the commander roomed together, and then you stayed within your class, sophomores roomed with sophomores, freshmen roomed with freshmen, juniors roomed with juniors, but we were different because there weren't that many of us and for the first year we had no seniors.46:00
Kennelly: Did you feel comfortable with your roommate?
Kennelly: Did anyone room with the heavy smoker?
MacDonald: Yes, as a matter of fact, another heavy smoker. She was a sophomore and the XO was a junior. But the biggest problem was that they were both gay, and that made a lot of particularly freshmen uncomfortable. It was fairly obvious sometimes, and some of their behavior wasn't really appropriate. It was like, you know, you guys have got to keep your personal life behind your door. They would want to know what was going on, and sometimes it would be carried out in the bathroom and stuff, and it was like, no, we cannot have this stuff going on.47:00
Kennelly: Were you in a position where you had to be disciplining that situation?
MacDonald: Yes, because I would get the complaints. And the big thing was that you didn't want things like that to get outside the squadron, but of course it did. That got brought up at one of my commanders' meetings, and it was like we were dealing with it the best way we could. We can't get rid of the person just because of their preferences.
Kennelly: Did that ever come up as far as males?
MacDonald: Yes, oh yes. It came up once or twice and that was that fall semester, the first part of the year.48:00
Kennelly: The policies are that you can't get rid of someone because of their preferences?
MacDonald: I don't know what the guys did. I'm pretty sure they had situations like that, but again we were under more of a spotlight than anybody else and because most of the girls that they were dating. They dated somebody in the Corps as opposed to someone outside of the Corps. You have a tendency to talk about stuff like that, particularly if it's upsetting you. So unfortunately, a lot of the stuff didn't stay in the squadron.
Kennelly: When you would be talking to the other commanders, would they try to tell you how you should be handling certain things? When you met with your other fellow commanders, was there ever a problem with them trying to tell you what to do?49:00
MacDonald: No, it was like you need to handle this, and I said, okay. Or you need to do such and such, but they never told me how I needed to do it. The Corps image was important to us, so nobody wants to do anything to mess it up, the reputation of the Corps outside of the Corps. So we may have internal squabbles within the Corps, but it would all get settled internally as opposed to being shown to the civilian part of the campus or the town.
Kennelly: What about the civilians saying things?
MacDonald: Well yes, we were an oddity, particularly the first year. We had a lot more attention focused on us by the civilians on campus as well as in the town, and the guys did because everyone was used to the male Corps going out and drilling, but they weren't used to the females being out there and drilling.50:00
Kennelly: And then I suppose when you look at some of the pictures, people have all different shoes on in the earlier pictures. It was probably a sight to see. I mean until people figured out what they were doing. But then as a commander, then your unit got the Kohler Prize. Could you explain what that is?
MacDonald: I'm trying to remember now. It's for precision, for drilling. Once we got the basics down, we were pretty good. And we looked sharp doing it. I guess they expected us to be sloppy because we were females, and females haven't been traditionally doing military stuff like that. And we showed them that, hey, we could march just as well as they could and stay and stuff. And look good doing it. It wasn't just the fact that we were female. It was because we knew our stuff.51:00
Kennelly: What was most satisfying to you as commander?
MacDonald: Well, anytime we marched in at the football games and got it right, which was quite often, and we brought credit on the unit, that was really satisfying to me because I wanted L Squadron to look good. That was my goal, and I wanted a good atmosphere in the squadron, and to treat people like people. We were really close, L Squadron was. Particularly the people who came in the first year. We lost a few, but after the freshmen got turned and they became regular citizens as opposed to being rats, L Squadron was closer than any squadron or company in the Corps, because we were isolated. We were in that dorm all by ourselves, and we were all female, and we all had the same pressures on us, because of the fact that we were all female, and we just learned how to make our own fun. We did a lot of things as a group. I'm not sure the other squadrons and companies did quite as much as we did as a group. Like go out on outings, and go out, and we had our part of the dormitory. The first year we only had half a floor. We had half of the first floor so that caused another problem with the fact of civilians running in and out and stuff. It would be nothing for us to be out in the hallway and have all kinds of get togethers and stuff. I don't know if the guys did that as much. I'm pretty sure they did some of it.53:0052:00
Kennelly: There would deliberately be limited chairs in the unit meetings so that the upperclassmen would sit in chairs and the underclassmen would have to sit on the floor. Was that a discipline thing?
MacDonald: Yes, that was part of the rat system. The rat system, you were kind of degraded at the beginning, and then you built your confidence up throughout the rest of the period. So as a freshmen coming in, you were treated like dirt. You were the slave population for the rest of the unit. You always had people yelling at you and telling you you did something wrong, but then we tried to give a little praise for doing stuff right.54:00
Kennelly: You had to just come in and just try doing that stuff to people? Was that difficult to assume that role?
MacDonald: I'm not that much of a yeller at people. That was kind of tough. Some people got into it more than others, but it was a little tough. But we had to focus on the fact that we had to teach them the rules, so it was a challenge because you couldn't be their buddies. You couldn't be their friends. You had to treat them like they were an entirely different class of people. You couldn't associate with them unless you were doing a squadron function or trying to teach them something or being in a role as their superior, but you couldn't be their friend. If someone was crying, you couldn't be that sympathetic. You could listen to them, but it all boiled down to, I am still your boss. It was difficult in the fact that if your leadership style is not to yell, it's hard to force yourself to get into someone's face and say you're doing something wrong as opposed to just quietly disciplining them. And the Corps way was you get into a rat's face and you tell them what low-lives they are and how they don't know anything and how they can't do anything and they'll never get turned. I've seen freshman guys crying because their sophomores were so tough on them. Their squad leaders were so tough on them.55:00
Kennelly: Did some of the girls end up crying too?
MacDonald: Yes, and you felt bad, but you're trying to teach them to be tough. But you don't want to intimidate them so much that they are going quit and never come back. We were not in the business of trying to make L Squadron members quit. We wanted to keep as many girls as we could because we knew we were small and we were trying to build something here and not tear it down. We lost a couple of freshmen, but we really did try to keep the unit together the first year--a lot harder than we did the second or third year.56:00
Kennelly: Was the regimental staff supportive?
MacDonald: Yes, they were, in a distant type of way. It was amazing. The squadron side of the Corps was a lot more helpful than the company side of the Corps. Maybe because we were named a squadron instead of a company. The squadrons were mostly Air Force ROTC as opposed to Army ROTC. The Air Force was maybe more used to dealing with women in a more equal role than the Army was because in the Army, most women were either secretarial or cooks or nurses. That was about all they did, whereas the Air Force was at that time was letting women do more quote-unquote combat-related things. They didn't have any pilots or anything, but they were letting women go into career fields that were not administrative. When I got out I went into an operational career field as opposed to an administrative, and the Army wasn't as advanced, and they fought it for a long time to get women into operational roles.57:00
Kennelly: What did you do when you got out?
MacDonald: I became an air weapons controller, it's kind of like an air traffic controller. I control fire airplanes.
Kennelly: Was that in the United States?58:00
MacDonald: I did Korea and Alaska, which Alaska was considered overseas even though it was stateside. But most was stateside.
Kennelly: There was just a little split in the staff as far as the kind of support?
MacDonald: Yes. Some of the regimental staff was really good, and they tried to help us out a lot, and I think if the regimental staff hadn't been as supportive as they were, we wouldn't have made it after the first year. If the regimental staff didn't accept us, nobody else before was going accept us, because that was the Corps leadership. Then the PAS and the commandant--their staff supported us.
Kennelly: What was the PAS?
MacDonald: He was the Professor of Aerospace Studies. And then the Army PSI, he was I think MAS which was Military Studies or something like that. They were the service advisors. And the commandant was over them, and then there was a commandant staff.59:00
Kennelly: Is there anything that they might have done differently that mighthave helped?
MacDonald: If they could've had more things planned out before we got there, I think it would've helped a lot. Because we were still trying to formulate an identity for the squadron when we first got there as opposed to just concentrating on being in the Corps and being Corps members.
Kennelly: For example the uniform--
MacDonald: Yes, if the uniform issue had been settled before we got there, that would've helped, but everybody had this general idea, but no one had specifics, so we had to get the specifics nailed down as opposed to, again, Corps issues and in addition to doing the Corps stuff.60:00
Kennelly: I saw a picture of Pie Day, did you participate in that or did you get pied?
MacDonald: No, I did not. I was very pleased. People got pied for various reasons. The people that were most hated got pied. The commanders would get pied. Some did. Some didn't. I didn't get pied. If someone was just a fun person and you knew they would take it in good stride, they'd get pied 'cause they'd get nominated. You would come up with the grossest pies. It was pretty inventive. It was a way of relieving stress and just the Corps having fun.61:00
Kennelly: You were glad you didn't get it?
Kennelly: Did you pie anybody?
MacDonald: No, I was more of a spectator 'cause I thought someone might want to retaliate.
Kennelly: It looked like fun in the picture.
MacDonald: It was fun because the Corps did have fun, but it was a structured type of fun.
Kennelly: Was there anything that felt to you like a turning point in your career in the Corps?
MacDonald: For the squadron, I remember we were marching, I'm not sure how we ended up off the campus, but we did, and we were marching, and some of the town applauded us. That was our first year too. That was great. It was like they finally recognized the fact that we're here, and they're proud of us. It was a great feeling to have them clap. That was super. And at the end of the year, when we did the marching at the commencement ceremony for the Corps and everything went like clockwork, and everyone in the stands cheered, that was like, this was cool, and they are really glad to see the women in the Corps. That was when I felt like we were a part of the Corps. Again, my year we still had problems working out some things, but I think they knew we were here to stay 'cause we went through that first year, and we keep the unit pretty much intact, and we lost a couple, but we kept the unit pretty much intact. And we did it with, I think, poise, and we didn't impact the Corps as much as they thought we would on their standards. We looked good, and the community accepted us. Outside the Corps, we were accepted, and it made the Corps look good. So to me, the first time that someone was appreciative of us was really the turning point for me feeling accepted into the Corps. It was something that happened from people outside of the Corps. From inside the Corps, the Corps put on plays and stuff, and we came in like second or third place out of all the different units that put on skits. I think it was called skit night. That made us feel like we were part of the Corps for the fact that our peers judged us to be better than a lot of the units that put on stuff.64:0063:0062:00
Kennelly: So that was judged by your fellow Corps members?
MacDonald: Oh, yes!
Kennelly: That must have been a major thing that they had to acknowledge that you were doing a good job.
MacDonald: Yes. And we thought we had the best skit, but we came in second or third, but it was a lot higher than we thought we would place because of the fact that we were females, but we did a good job, and they recognized that fact.
Kennelly: Was that your first year?
MacDonald: I think that was my senior year 'cause we did a skit based on the Wizard of Oz. No, it was the year I was a commander I think.
Kennelly: So you went from being, you were a commander your junior year, and then your senior year you were--65:00
MacDonald: I was the administrative officer which was another senior position.
Kennelly: Is it difficult to go from being a commander to being an administrative officer?
MacDonald: In some ways it was kind of tough, but again we had a whole summer to do the transition, and we had a new freshman class coming in, and we still had a lot of the upperclassmen that were there. No, because I roomed with the commander my next year.
Kennelly: In what ways was it tough?
MacDonald: Keeping my mouth shut and not offering advice when it wasn't needed could be tough sometimes. But we talked a lot of stuff over, but we did it within our room. We didn't do it out in front of the rest of the squadron.66:00
Kennelly: And then you have to accept being commanded by another person? I believe that person was a junior, or younger, or in a different grade?
MacDonald: Yes, Emily. She was a junior, and I was a senior. No, the fact that she was a junior and I was a senior, that wasn't any problem at all. It was more of the fact that I was the ex-commander as opposed to if I was a regular junior with no special rank in the squadron and a junior took over for my senior year, and if I didn't want to be the commander, I wouldn't have had any problem with that at all. One year of commanding was enough.
Kennelly: Everybody had one year. Was that the idea that one year is enough?67:00
MacDonald: Well, yes, because traditionally your commander is a senior. They graduate at the end of that year, and you get a new senior to come in and take their place.
Kennelly: And what would the administrative officer do?
MacDonald: I was responsible for handling all the paperwork, like filing demerits, and making sure that if people had stuff in their rooms right, posting orders, if Corps regs came down. We had a bulletin board that had to be set up just so and stuff, and I would brief people on the changes. It was a little less after being the commander. Not as much responsibility and stress. It was an amazing year.
Kennelly: Have you followed the news about the Citadel and VMI? What are your thought as you see what's happening in those schools from your own experiences?
MacDonald: I think they are going to have a lot harder time integrating because there is no civilian populous. It's just all Corps at those two locations. They don't have anybody at the school that is not part of the Corps that's looking at them and judging their behavior. The Corps are going stick together at those locations, and they have a long tradition and long history and plus the fact that they were all male schools. It's a lot harder for a female to break into that. And they know they are females, and they want to make them adhere to the same rules, and I'm not sure that's a good idea. In some regards it's a good idea, but in other ways, they don't allow for the individuality and the fact that there are legitimate differences between males and females, and that's going hurt them in the long run that they need to look at the service academies I think to look at the integration there. I was talking to one of the L Squadron members last night, and she was saying that when VMI decided to pursue this they came in to talk to her and they talked to the rest of the members of the Corps about how we did it, and all they took was the negative stuff. They didn't take any of the positive stuff at all. So it's like they really don't want to do this and until you change the attitude of the Corps, it's going be awfully hard for women to find acceptance in either one of those two places. And to do that you have to change the attitude of the leadership. And if the leadership is not willing to change their attitude and enforce it on the Corps, then it's never going happen.69:0068:00
Kennelly: When you say leadership, do you mean regimental?70:00
MacDonald: Regimental and higher.
Kennelly: And the leadership here when you came in for the most part--
MacDonald: They were resigned that there were going be women in, and then they realized that we weren't going to hurt their precious Corps standards. I think they accepted us a lot more. But the regimental commander, George Welsh, was kind of laid-back kind of guy. His XO Barry Coon was a jerk, he was a lot more chauvinist than the commander was, and he was very opinionated about things, but he wasn't the commander.71:00
Kennelly: Would he let people know that was how he felt?
Kennelly: In what way?
MacDonald: He would just kind of look down his nose at you, like, oh, no, here come the women again. And he did that about the squadron side of the Corps, too, because he was a company guy, and it was like nobody could ever be as good as his unit. There was even a step between the Army and the Air Force even before the women even got in the Corps. The Army was the quote-unquote macho side of the discipline side. They were the Green Beret type. The flyboy side, the Air Force side, they weren't quite as strict in a lot of the stuff they did. And then they bring women in, and the Air Force don't have a big problem with it. The squadron side of the Corps didn't have the problems that the company side had, the battalion side had. There was a lot of difference depending on if the people were Air Force or Army ROTC as to the way we were treated. That was another tension within the Corps. You didn't even have to see the guy's emblem. You could figure out just by the attitude if he was a group or a battalion.72:00
Kennelly: By their attitude towards--
Kennelly: Because it would seem that the whole unit would assume this attitude?
Kennelly: In all these things, was it always more the question of being a woman than rather being a black person?73:00
MacDonald: Yes, oh yes. For me, it was because I was female.
Kennelly: Did you feel like you were a pioneer because you were a black female in the Corps?
MacDonald: No, not until I got out, I think. To me, I guess 'cause I was used to being black, it was no big deal. I wanted to be in the Corps. It didn't matter that my skin was darker than anybody else's to me, and I don't think a lot of people saw that as a problem, either. I really don't. I never had anyone come up to me and say, I have a problem with you because you're black. It's more like, you're a female and you're lowering our standards as opposed to, you're black, and you might have some impact on our standards. It was more a question of the fact that I was a female.
Kennelly: When you got out of the Corps, did the racial aspect make you more aware of what you had done?74:00
MacDonald: Yes, I think I was.
Kennelly: When did you become aware of that?
MacDonald: Probably when I went down South. I got stationed down South.
Kennelly: Were there other black female officers down there?
MacDonald: There were a few, yes.
Kennelly: So it was like talking to other people.
MacDonald: It was looking at Virginia Tech stuff and going back and looking at pictures and stuff and keeping in contact with some of the girls in the squadron and realizing I was the first black female to graduate. No, actually someone said that to me, and it was like, oh, yes, I guess I was, and I hadn't really thought of it before that. I hadn't even thought of what that would mean. At the time when I was going through, I didn't think about that at all. We had one other black female cadet the whole time I was there. She didn't stay past her freshman year.75:00
Kennelly: She didn't come in when you came in?
MacDonald: No, she came in the year I was a commander. And I'm not even sure she made it past the first semester. She didn't stick with it.
Kennelly: It was more--76:00
MacDonald: It wasn't because she was black of course. It was because she didn't want to be in the Corps. It wasn't something she wanted to do. It was a big shock. And she had absolutely no experience with the military before she came into the Corps, so it was a culture shock for her.
Kennelly: I just wanted to ask you again, talking about the VMI and Citadel, the fact that there was a civilian population, did that make a big difference?
MacDonald: Oh yes, it has to. The Corps is an entirely separate entity from the civilians, but still we have to go to classes with these people. The Corps was our way of life, but we still had our individual studies and still had friends outside of the Corps that we were close to. The Citadel and VMI don't have that. They're responsible only to themselves.77:00
Kennelly: So that can make a difference with how they deal?
MacDonald: I think it would because they don't have a civilian among us looking at them. Everybody that goes through VMI goes through the Citadel, they're Corps. But here you got the Corps as a very small part of Virginia Tech. We got all these other outside influences from the campus itself and from our peers on campus that the VMI and Citadel will never have, unless they open up their membership to non-Corps, and I don't think they will be likely to do that. If you think about it, their reputation is built on the fact that they are a quote-unquote military school. That's their identity. And to have civilians on campus and nothing besides a supporting role like professors, janitors, or administrative staff, that completely changes their identity. Whereas we went through that transition one hundred years ago, whenever Tech decided to switch over to civilians. Then they didn't have to worry about women in the Corps because there were no women in the military.78:00
Kennelly: So you think with all the changes, the way it happened at Tech wasmuch more gradually?
MacDonald: Yes. And the climate was right. Back in the 70s, women's lib was very, very big, and there were a lot of social changes that were going on throughout the country, racially as well as sexually, and people were willing to change then. And now the emphasis isn't there. Everyone is more accepting of what's happening right now. You don't have all the movers and shakers and stuff, and people being radical about their views and trying to change things. You just don't have that now.79:00
Kennelly: Did you get involved with women's lib?
MacDonald: I was a proponent of it. I didn't do any marching or anything. I was definitely for the rights of women and for opening up different opportunities for women that weren't opened up, as well as civilian and military life.
Kennelly: So that was something that was important to you at that time anyway?80:00
MacDonald: Yes, and I swore when I went to college, I wasn't going go to college to learn traditional female roles like becoming a teacher. I wasn't going to go to Home Ec. I never took a Home Ec class in my life, and I never will. It was for me that I wanted to be an individual, and I wanted to be challenged, and I wanted to do non-traditional female stuff. And maybe it was because my dad was in the military, and I just saw all the fun and neat things that were available, even though they weren't available to women. It was like, I would like to fly a jet. I would like to be able to have that opportunity to do that. And even though I really didn't want to fly a jet because I flew a simulator once and to me I didn't like it that much. But still a person should not have their sex held against them in whatever type of career they are going to pursue. If they are physically and mentally prepared for doing it, it doesn't matter if they are male or female, black or white, they should be able to be allowed to do that. I think that was another reason I joined the Corps was because I'm an individual, and there are certain things I want to do, and I want to push the boundaries where I can do something that is non-traditional. I don't want to get married right away and have kids. I don't want to be a secretary and do all of the traditional female stuff. I want to do something that's challenging. And when I went into the military, I went into an operational field. They only had, I think, seven operational career fields open to women at the time I came in, and I said well I'm going be one of those, and I enjoyed it.81:00
Kennelly: When you were in the military, did you feel that being a woman held you back from pursuing some things you would've liked to pursue?82:00
MacDonald: Not really, it was amazing. They were still trying to get used to women, even when I went in, and women had been in for a while, they were still getting used to women being in the military. I remember I had just gotten my clothing. I hadn't even gone on active duty yet. I was at Langley, and I was picking up some stuff, and I actually had a sergeant tell me that I was taking a job away from a man because I was in the military.
Kennelly: And what did you say?
MacDonald: I just told him, well, I have to live, too. It was just amazing, some of the attitudes still. The fact over a female was joining the military.
Kennelly: You went in as an officer then?
MacDonald: I went in as a 2nd lieutenant.
Kennelly: Did that happen a lot, beyond that sergeant?83:00
MacDonald: No, not really. But that just really stuck out in my mind that he would say that because I had never had anybody say something like that to me before. There may have been rumblings before, but you could tell that some people weren't happy, but there wasn't someone who was going tell you to your face that, here you're taking the role away of a breadwinner because you're taking away a man's job by being in the military. In some ways, it was like being in the military and being female, you were kind of on display, particularly in the officer role because there weren't that many of us. And if you were halfway competent of what you were doing, it was like, oh, here is our little token female that's going be here, and she's doing this. In some ways it was good, and in some ways it was bad because it was like I had more uncles and fathers and people trying to give me advice when I was in the military, particularly starting out I was a 2nd lieutenant, as I had ever imagined.84:00
Kennelly: And those were mostly white men, black men?
MacDonald: It was all types. It was like they were trying to take care of me. And I'm a grown person, and I'm an officer in the military just like there are other officers in the military that are my same rank and I don't see you trying to take care of them, so don't take care of me.
Kennelly: Did you say that at times?
MacDonald: Yes, I said that to one of my commanders once. I couldn't make a move without him saying do you need a ride to work, no I don't need a ride to work. If I have a problem with my car, I can call somebody. Yes, you would have to sometimes say that. When I went to my first remote assignment, I was a 1st lieutenant, and I was going to Alaska, and I was going to a site where there were two females, and the rest of the one hundred-odd people were male. Not just me, but for any woman who went to a remote site, they actually sat down and went through a three hour briefing on what to expect, what to look out for, appropriate behaviors. There were problems. And I guess they wanted to make you aware so you didn't just walk into it and not know what could possibly go on.85:00
Kennelly: And you felt they were sort of overdoing it?
MacDonald: Actually, no, the briefing was pretty good, and when something would happen on the site, it was like, yes, they told me about this. In that way it was good, but some of the other stuff I felt I didn't need their help to do this. I'm an independent person. Don't look at me as a female. Look at me as an officer.86:00
Kennelly: When you switched over to art, what were you thinking of in terms of career?
MacDonald: At that point, I was looking to graduate. I had a really disastrous semester academic-wise, and it's like, I cannot do math and be a commander at the same time. It was just too challenging. I was taking eighteen hours, and they were all hard courses. I took one art course, and the rest were either statistics, math, or some type of science program. I only took that one art course, and everything else was just strictly all high-level stuff, and I could not do that and be in the Corps at the same time and do work-study. Something had to give. I had taken some art courses before that, and I had enjoyed it, and I still took a couple of math courses after that, but my heart wasn't into that because with a mathematics degree, I could teach, and I didn't want to teach. I could work in research, and I wasn't interested in going and working with research, so I didn't see an outlet for being a math major either. It was just something that was not traditional and challenging, and I like it, so that's why I went into math to begin with, but after being in there, I didn't know what I would do with that degree. With art, I could do other things. I could be a commercial artist. I could teach, which I really didn't want to, or I could just be an artist. But I went into the military and really didn't use my art, but I used my math. I used more math than art.87:00
Kennelly: Did you stay in the military your whole career?
MacDonald: Yes, I retired back in 94. I enjoyed the military. I liked the travel aspects. I liked the chance to do things that a lot of people will never do. I like just being different I guess. I liked the command aspects of it, because you've got a lot of responsibility that you wouldn't get in the civilian world in a lot of jobs. Which was good and was challenging and the people, the military is really a small community. Depending on the type of job you were doing, you kept on running into the same people from base to base. People you haven't seen in years all of a sudden you are stationed together or they come through on a temporary duty assignment, and you always have friends everywhere you go pretty much.88:00
Kennelly: Did you have children?89:00
Kennelly: Did you feel well prepared for your career in the military from your training at Tech?
MacDonald: Yes, I knew how to take orders. I knew about the uniform. Even though the uniform was different, I still knew that it was a uniform. I knew about the pay system. I was familiar with the rank structure, and I was familiar being a quote-unquote supervisor, which after my first year I became a supervisor in the Air Force, so the Corps did help prepare me for that.
Kennelly: Is there anything else you would like to bring up. Anything I didn't ask?90:00
MacDonald: I enjoyed my four years at Virginia Tech. I learned a lot. I learned a lot more in the Corps than I think I would've by being on campus. I grew up faster, too. My freshman year it was like, oh, boy, we're away from mom and dad. It's our year to find ourselves. Discipline wasn't there. You didn't have to take responsibility for yourself as much as you do in the Corps, so I think the Corps was a good experience in that it helped everyone grow up a lot faster. Even though you had the rules and regulations, you still had a lot of responsibilities and a lot of pressure that you wouldn't have outside of the Corps, and they were pressures that shaped you. It was a good way of shaping you as opposed to not having those pressures. The Corps definitely makes an impact on a person's life, and it is so entirely different than being a civilian and going through school. There was such a big change between my freshman and sophomore year as to what I did academically as well as mentally and physically. To me it was a good change. The Corps teaches you to focus if you are kind of scatter-brained. I was during my freshman year. I was more interested in boys and new experiences, and going to class was fun, but I wanted to learn about life, and the Corps made me focus on my studies, made me focus on discipline and growing up and being responsible. I think it did that to a lot people, particularly the women, because we had the extra pressure of being new and different in the Corps, and you either stood that pressure or got out, and a lot of us stood the pressure, and I think we are better people because of it. We area lot stronger 'cause you are challenged academically if you're a civilian. In the Corps we were challenged academically, mentally. I placed more physical challenges on myself by doing track and stuff, but just the mental toughness you develop by being in the Corps and learning to deal with different pressures. Pressures you wouldn't feel on the outside makes you a stronger person.93:0092:0091:00
Kennelly: Do you think integration of women into the units would've been more effective if it had happened from the start?
MacDonald: We talked about it and it probably would've made the whole process easier, the acceptance of us into the Corps a little easier, but I think the way we did it was better. L Squadron, we got to form our identity and establish the fact that women really could be a legitimate part of the Corps, and we got to do it our way. We got the respect and their trust and it made it easier when the integration finally did happen, when they put the women into the individual units, for the women that were coming along, because it could've failed just like the women at VMI and the Citadel. It could've been the exact same thing.94:00
Kennelly: So you would say in the long run the integration of women in the Corps into the units was good, but it--
MacDonald: It was a gradual thing, and it needed to be a step thing. The Highty Tighties were the first integrated part of the Corps, the first integrated unit because they put women in the Highty Tighties first. They lived in the L Squadron area, but they were physically assigned to the Highty Tighties schedule. They didn't follow the L Squadron schedule, but they stayed in our area, and the girls started out in the L Squadron. We had very few women that went right into the Highty Tighties when they first came in. And that was tough on them because they were staying away from their unit even though they were assigned to do the same stuff. Still they weren't involved in all the unit functions, and that was bad. If they were going to integrate them, they really needed to physically put them with the unit so that way they could really feel a part of the unit.95:00
Kennelly: So they felt in-between?
MacDonald: Yes, because they couldn't participate in everything the Highty Tighties did. There are things you do inside the squadron area or the company area that you have to be there for, and the Highty Tighties had their rituals and stuff and would do different things. And the girls weren't used to all that stuff, because they weren't physically present with them. They couldn't be there because they had to be in our dorm. It's like once they decide to integrate them they really should've physically severed us as opposed to doing it gradually that way. I'm glad to see that they have the women physically in the same squadron and company areas. I guess they're all companies now, in the same company area as the guys, 'cause that's the only way they are going feel a part of the unit. But I wish Marilyn were here 'cause she was one of the Highty Tighties, and she could've talked about how difficult it was for her to be a part of one squadron but being physically separated from them.96:00
Kennelly: I wonder if that made it harder for her in the L Squadron because she would miss things out with you--97:00
MacDonald: I think we were more supportive because we knew her and she was our friend, and they were our friends, and we realized that they had stuff to do, but they were still always going be a part of L Squadron. But it was a lot tougher on them because they have different loyalties now. You're loyal to your buds, your unit, and your Corps, kind of in that order. Just because your buds are who you went through your freshman year with in your unit, and you just shared things, and everyone did it as a group, and each company and each squadron had different variations on that rat system. It wasn't a uniform system throughout the Corps. Everybody had their own little wrinkle, how they handled their rats, and that was an experience that bonded that freshman class, and so your first allegiance was always to your buds, then to your unit, and then to the Corps, because you always bond closest with the people that you're closest to.98:00
Kennelly: And that never affected the whole system?
MacDonald: Yes, and plus the fact that there was such a sharp difference being a freshman and being an upperclassman. We had rules against it. You would get demerits if a freshman girl went out with an upperclassman.
Kennelly: They weren't allowed to do that?
MacDonald: Definitely not at all. And I remember the first month, until they came down with that rule, it was kind of lax, and they allowed that to happen, and then they bumped that rule down, and it was kind of hard to enforce because people had already started to form relationships, and all of a sudden they were told, no, you cannot see this person because of rank. It was the same way in the military. You don't have fraternization between officer and enlisted, not officially on paper, because it's bad for discipline. Because how do you tell someone you have a personal relationship with, you have to die, if you've got to give the order to go out and kill someone or go and be killed? How do you tell a subordinate that, when you are physically or personally involved with them? And it was an issue when the services were all male and the Corps were all male, and when they brought the females in, that just added an extra totally different dimension, because now you have the gender attraction as well as the fact as you have a difference in rank. It was tough trying to enforce that. It really was. And the whole time I was there, there was not fraternization between upper and lower class.100:0099:00
Kennelly: Is that when the person is a sophomore--
MacDonald: Once they're a sophomore, they were upper-class. But freshmen were not allowed to fraternize with upper-class.
Kennelly: Being in the Corps, does that make you feel depersonalized as an individual because you become part of a unit?
MacDonald: No, not really. Everybody had their different personalities, and you liked a person based upon their personality, not based upon the fact that they were part of a group, although certain personalities tended to stick together 'cause you did have people who moved back and forth between companies and squadrons. They didn't stay in the same unit all the time. That was rare, but you did have that. I don't know. You just tended to look at the individual. You didn't like a whole company based upon one person's personality. You just liked the individual. Unless the whole mindset of that particular unit was a lot different, or you didn't like, but you didn't just say you didn't like that company because you didn't like that one person, or you didn't like that squadron because you didn't like that person. You just didn't like the individual.101:00
Kennelly: Is there anything else you--
MacDonald: I don't think so--102:00
Kennelly: If you would just talk a little more about the racial issues.
MacDonald: I have never viewed myself in terms of race, maybe because I was brought up in an integrated environment. I always viewed myself as a female opposed to being a black female, and the fact that I was the first black female in the Corps didn't mean anything to me. It was more of the fact that I was among one of the first female women in the Corps. That was more important to me. Race has never been that much of an issue for me. Growing up I had always gone to integrated schools, part of them were in the military, and plus the fact that my father was in the military, and the military being more integrated than American society as a whole back then that probably has a lot to do with my outlook and the fact that we were taught to judge people not on the basis of their color but on the basis of their ability, and sex had no play on it either. It's like if you can do the job, it doesn't matter whether you're male or female, black or white, just as long as you are able to do whatever task you are assigned or whatever job you take on to do yourself. And I've always looked at the fact that I am a woman and the fact that I want to do something that women traditionally don't do. It never occurred to me that race would be an issue because it wasn't an issue with me. I know I'm black. That's something I can't change. I know I'm female and that's something I can't change, but I think there are more barriers to the fact that I'm female and keeping me from doing things I want to do than the fact that I'm black, and being able to do the things I want to do.104:00103:00
Kennelly: In your family growing up, was there any emphasis placed on being black, or your role as a black person in your family or community?
MacDonald: No, not really because all the neighborhoods my parents grew up in were black, and all of my grandparents lived in black neighborhoods, and most of their friends and our friends at the time were black, if they were non-military. And outside of my immediate family, a lot of my friends were black, and my relatives dealt primarily with blacks as opposed to whites just because of the way the culture was, but we didn't place a lot of emphasis on race. We didn't place a lot of emphasis on trying to do things better than other people because we were black. We weren't trying to set an example for blacks. That wasn't anything our parents tried to teach us. It's you're an individual first, and the fact that you are black might make it harder in some cases. I really admire my mom a lot. My mom, her thing was the fact that there were a lot of things she didn't get a chance to do because she was female, and she was really pleased that I went into the military because I was doing something she wasn't able to do back then, 'cause her career choices were even more limited then mine when I came out in 76. The black issue had been a lot more settled than the male-female issue, because the issue with Martin Luther King and stuff happened back in the late 60s and early 70s. Then the women's issues started coming more to the fore in the early 70s to late 70s, and there were some issues that were black and white. The females were now feeling in power to start sticking up for their rights, and I felt that the race issue had been settled in my mind long before the gender issue had ever been settled.106:00105:00
Kennelly: So when you grew up did you have black and white friends as a kid?
MacDonald: Yes, it didn't matter to us if they were black or white. All that mattered was how good of a playmate they were, how good their house was, who made the best snacks, who had the best toys. That was a primary concern, not whether this person was white or black, or Hispanic or Asian. It was the fact that their stuff was better than mine, and which ever family had the best stuff, that's where all the kids congregated. I remember when we were in New Mexico, my mom put out the best snacks, so we always had kids over at the house, and other places other people had better games so we were always over at someone else's house. It wasn't the fact that person was white or black. It was that person had something we wanted to do. Everyone treated each other as equal. It wasn't a race thing for the kids growing up in the military, not on base anyhow. It wasn't an issue. Our parents all worked together. We lived in the same area. The only segregation that was going on was officer and enlisted like I talked about earlier. There was a difference between an officer's house and an enlisted house. They lived in different sections of the base. They used the same common facilities like the grocery store called the commissary, or the PX [post exchange] which is kind of like a Wal-Mart, and the gym. But housing was separate, the clubs are separate. There is an officer club, and an enlisted club. There was no joint club back then. Now the military in some places is going to an all ranks club. But that was where the segregation was, was between officer and enlisted not between black and white, or non-white and white.108:00107:00
Kennelly: Was there something particular your mother wanted to do?
MacDonald: Well, she wanted to go to college. Her father got real sick her first year, so she had to drop out, and she never went back. She got married when she was eighteen or nineteen, and started having children, so she just wished she could've gone out and done a lot more things before she got married and started having kids. You know, have a chance at a career. She became a housewife, and until my youngest brother was in elementary school, which meant I was in junior high school, she didn't have anything outside of the home. We were a pretty traditional family. The father was the bread winner, and the mother was the homemaker, and she stayed at home with the kids. So she always wished for a job, and once the kids got old enough, she started getting outside jobs.109:00
Kennelly: When you were growing up in high school, were things mixed around such as parties and all of that, or was it black and white?110:00
MacDonald: It all depended. Sometimes we went to parties where it was predominantly black, particularly on the parents' side. On the kids' side, whoever had a party and we were allowed to go, we weren't allowed to go to a lot of parties. As long as our parents approved of the kids, we could go. It didn't matter if they were black or white.
Kennelly: Your family was not as strict then?
MacDonald: In some regards they were kind of strict. I didn't really start dating until I was a senior in high school. They were protective, and I was a little shy, so I didn't go out of my way to be all that sociable. I don't remember going to that many school parties and dances until I got to my senior year. It wasn't something that interested me 'cause I ran track in high school, and I was more interested in the athletic side of the social scene at school as opposed to going to the dances and stuff, and academically, I was in the honors program. My focus was academics and sports. It wasn't on the social life that much, so when people went to parties and dances, and they would go out drinking, I didn't really do that 'cause that wasn't really what I wanted to do. And my brothers were real heavily into sports, and my dad coached their basketball teams and their softball teams and football teams, and we would always go out and watch the games. We were more oriented that way as opposed to going out and partying, and then our family is really close, so we did a lot of socializing among ourselves. We went out as a family as opposed to the kids going their separate ways with their friends at night, and going to parties and stuff, and the parents going their separate ways. Again, it was just a matter of who your friends were at that certain time, and it wasn't based upon the fact that they were black or that they were white so much. It was based upon the fact that you knew them, and you liked them, and they liked you.112:00111:00
Kennelly: Do you think a lot of that is from being in the military?
MacDonald: I know it is because if my parents didn't go into the military, they would have probably still been in a predominantly black neighborhood, and I would've experienced the same pace of integration as the rest of America did. The people that weren't in the military--I went to one junior high the first year they integrated blacks into that junior high, and that was a little tough because we had been on a military assignment before that, and I was used to going to military schools where it was all integrated, and then to come back and you are being stared at because you are one of the first blacks to get there. It's like, well, okay why are you guys doing this? Yes, my skin may be a different color, but I still have brains. When I bleed, it's still red. I can read. I can write. What's the difference? Skin color shouldn't be a reason to not like somebody, and that was interesting. I wasn't used to that type of environment, and after the first few months it got better, 'cause people were used to seeing us.113:00
Kennelly: Where was this?
MacDonald: In Norfolk.
Kennelly: Were there any complications in that?114:00
MacDonald: It was more you had to walk the gauntlet. People would stop and stare at you, particularly the first day. There weren't any police or anything. The teachers were out, and the principal was out, and they made sure we got into the classrooms and stuff. Nobody threw anything. There were a few remarks that were made but no riots or anything. It was relatively peaceful, but still, it was traumatic for those going through it.
Kennelly: How many students were there?
MacDonald: Maybe forty or fifty of us.
Kennelly: Of a student body of how many?
MacDonald: About two hundred.
Kennelly: That was a major change?
MacDonald: Yes, it was.
Kennelly: Did you make any white friends at school there?
MacDonald: Yes. Everybody is afraid of change, and even though kids are more accepting of new experiences than grown ups are they are still shaped by their environment, and they have a lot of fears, and they don't like change that much either. And that was a pretty drastic change, particularly when you are hearing it from all sides about how bad it is, but you don't know why. You are just being told it's bad. You haven't even been exposed to these people, and you are making an assumption not on fact but on hear say of what people are like. My first Air Force assignment I was in Duluth, Minnesota, and some of those people had never seen a black person in person in their life. It was amazing to have people come up and touch your skin, especially kids, to see if it would rub off. I met one woman who was twenty-four years old who was a school teacher up there, and I was the first black person she had ever talked to and seen in person. She'd seen us on TV.116:00115:00
Kennelly: Did you feel sort of lonely?
MacDonald: I felt like I was an alien. You would go to a restaurant, and people would just stare at you, not in a negative way. It was just like, you were an entirely different creature. And at the time I had the kid come up, we were in a car place, and I was getting my car worked on, and he was sitting with his dad, and he was about twelve feet away from me, and he would keep looking at me, and then he would come out two or three feet from his dad, and then run back to his dad if I looked at him, and every time he went out, he came closer and closer until finally he reached out and touched me. And I said, it doesn't rub off. And he was about four or five years old, and he ran back to his dad, and his dad is trying to apologize, and I said, hey, if you've never seen one of us before, we don't bite. It was different. It wasn't a negative thing. It was just a weird thing because I didn't know there were people in the states that had never seen someone of a different race.117:00
Kennelly: You were the only black person there?
MacDonald: No. There were plenty of blacks at the base, but this was in the downtown area, and that part of the country is predominantly Scandinavian, Swedish, that type of background, and I guess they don't go any place. I don't know. A lot of them hadn't seen that many blacks. The farther you are away from the big cities, the harder the chance they would have to be exposed to us. It wasn't a negative or unpleasant experience. It was just different. It was amazing you get looked at like that.118:00
Kennelly: And you just coped with it?
MacDonald: You just kind of laughed it off because there wasn't any harm in it. You were exposing them to something new, even though you didn't feel new. I felt I was exposing them to something different. The Northeast is an entirely different part of the country. They act differently. They talk differently. Their manners are a lot different than here in the South. You go out West, it's even different still. I would like every American to have that opportunity to go and see the different cultures in the states because they may be a lot more tolerant of the differences in people if they got exposed to them and realized that they are not bad things, they are just different.119:00
Kennelly: Any other thoughts?
MacDonald: No, I just think my growing up shaped me and my opinions of myself.
Kennelly: Thank you.
MacDonald: You're welcome.[End of Interview]