As the approximately 4,000 United States Air Force Academy cadets stood at their tables awaiting permission to sit and begin their noon meal in late August at the Academy’s campus in Colorado Springs, Colo., McCallie alumnus Mac Caldwell ’12 stepped to the podium with somber news for his classmates.
Cadet Caldwell had the sad duty of informing his classmates that Air Force Capt. Matthew D. Roland, a 2010 Academy alumnus, had been killed the previous day in Afghanistan’s Helmand province during an apparent insider attack by Afghan forces. Air Force Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley had also been killed in the attack, and three other service members were wounded in the fighting.
Cadet Caldwell’s voice broke as he told his fellow cadets of the loss of one of their own, and he led the Wing in singing the lesser known third verse of the U.S. Air Force official song:
Here’s a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force
With that the cadets began a somber meal and prepared to get back to work — preparing to defend our nation’s freedom.
“To lose somebody really hurts,” Cadet Caldwell later reflected. “Any time a serviceman or woman dies it’s a tragedy, but it hits home a bit more for everyone here just because you know that guy did everything you’re doing
“It hits home that when you sit down for your meal after hearing that announcement that the cadet to your left or right could have their name called out in five years.”
Delivering such serious news is one of the many burdens of leadership required of Cadet Caldwell, who is the current Cadet Wing Commander for the U.S. Air Force Academy. As Wing Commander, Caldwell is the highest-ranking cadet at the Academy, with the responsibility of overseeing the 4,000 Cadets in 40 Squadrons. Cadet Caldwell and his Wing Staff oversee Four Group Commanders to ensure that the Cadet Wing runs smoothly on a daily basis.
It’s a daunting task for a young man, but one Cadet Caldwell was uniquely prepared for as a student at McCallie School.
“I remember the fall semester of my (freshman) year calling (former McCallie Headmaster) Dr. Kirk Walker and saying ‘Thank you,’” Cadet Caldwell said. “McCallie had prepared me so abundantly for what I had undertaken at the Air Force Academy.
“McCallie taught me how to multi-task and how to balance and manage my time. Most importantly, it taught me how to invest in people through the various activities I was doing.”
Cadet Caldwell comes from a long line of McCallie Men: his grandfather, Hardwick Caldwell ’40, was a longtime member of the Board of Trustees; his father Mark Caldwell ’75 went to school on the Ridge as well. They, along many other members of the Caldwell family, have devoted much to the school.
“The Caldwell family has been a part of McCallie School for more than 80 years, and have been devoted to this community throughout that time,” said Headmaster Lee Burns ’87. “While Mac is just the latest in that proud family line, his achievements — both here and at the U.S. Air Force Academy — are a testament to his family, his country and McCallie School.”
Mac Caldwell distinguished himself in his time at McCallie. He was president of the student Senate his senior year and was awarded the Walker Casey Award and Grayson Medal. In addition, he is an Eagle Scout and was very involved with his church and community.
As the president of the Senate, Mac Caldwell helped enforce the school’s Honor Code, which obligates students never to lie, cheat or steal.
The Academy’s Honor Code comes as second nature to Cadets who attended McCallie.
“For me having an honor code and an Honor Oath (at the Academy) was customary,” Cadet Caldwell said. “We want to uphold a high standard of professionalism and character. But I was used to that, because that’s what we did at McCallie.
“Coming in here there was zero temptation to lie, cheat or steal.”
Look for the Fall/Winter issue of McCallie Magazine in the mail to read the full story on Air Force Academy Cadet Mac Caldwell and other McCallie alumni who have chosen to devote their lives to military service.