Lt. Col. Thomas J. Makal Jr.
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July 10, 1943 – January 21, 2008
Lt. Col. Thomas Joseph Makal Jr. was born in Florence, Alabama, on July 10, 1943, and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1961 he graduated from Dominican High School in Milwaukee. He was a distinguished graduate of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Wisconsin and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in math and political science in 1965. Lt. Col. Makal was commissioned as a regular officer in the United States Air Force on June 7, 1965. He entered active duty as a second lieutenant on Aug. 1, 1965, at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, where he attended the Communications-Electronics Technical Training Course.
His first operational assignment was to the 1913th Communications Squadron at Langley AFB, Virginia. In a four-year tour there from 1966-69, he held several duties in communications operations and rose to serve as the Chief of Tactical Air Command Post Communications, where he was principally responsible for the flow of communications supporting Southeast Asian deployments. In that capacity, he completed a command voice alerting system that continued unchanged until he replaced it 23 years later while assigned again to Langley AFB.
Lt. Col. Makal was married to Marilyn Terese Obenberger of Fox Point, Wisconsin, on Sept. 17, 1970 at St. Eugene’s Catholic Church in Milwaukee. He attended the Air Force Institute of Technology (Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio) in 1970-71, receiving his Master of Science degree in logistics management with honors.
In 1970, Lt. Col. Makal served a combat tour with the 1964 Communications Group, Tan Son Nhut AB, Republic of Vietnam, where he performed theater-wide duties in navigational aids maintenance until appointed Executive Officer of the 11-squadron, 5,000-person organization.
Following this one-year tour, he flowed to Headquarters, Pacific Communications Area, then at Wheeler AFB, Hawaii, where he managed a number of maintenance functions as well as logistics support for residual U.S. equipment in Vietnam. While in Hawaii, Lt. Col. Makal and his wife welcomed the arrival of their twin daughters, Katherine Anne and Jennifer Lee, on Aug. 3, 1973.
From Hawaii, he moved to Headquarters, Air Force Communications Command, first at Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri, then at Scott AFB, Illinois. Assigned to the Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics, he served as Assistant Director of Maintenance, Chief of Maintenance Management and Logistics Plans Officer. He was the author of the engineering and installation wartime prepositioning system, consolidated engineering and installation depots at Tinker AFB, and began the process of streamlining Air Force Manual 66-1 maintenance management philosophies to fit the needs of small communications squadrons.
Following AFCC, Lt. Col. Makal attended the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, in 1980 and was reassigned to the HQ USAF Deputy Chief of Staff, Research and Development at the Pentagon, where he was in charge of system acquisitions for air traffic control and navigation equipment from 1981-85. In that capacity, he incorporated the Global Positioning System (GPS) in to the Federal Radionavigation Plan, assisted NATO in incorporating GPS and the microwave landing system into its long-range architecture, replaced the Berlin Air Route Traffic Control radar and funded a number of Control and Landing Systems (TRACALS) improvement programs.
From the Pentagon, he assumed the assignment of Deputy Commander of the 1836th Engineering Installation Group (AFCC) at Lindsey Air Station, West Germany, in 1985 and remained there until 1989. There, he directed the installation and much of the engineering of the command, control and communications infrastructure for several ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) bases in Europe. He was instrumental in extending the Digital European Backbone program across the continent and getting the engineering-installation community prepared for war.
Following his tour in Germany, Lt. Col. Makal was assigned once again to Langley AFB, Virginia, the location of his first tour. At HQ TAC/SC, he assumed the position of Chief, Interbase Systems Branch, Air Combat Command. Throughout this final tour, he provided combat-ready communications-computer systems support for TAC forces during peacetime contingencies and wartime deployment during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. He trained and equipped the installation group for war while directing the crash cruise missile installation effort during the first Gulf War.
Lt. Col. Makal retired from the Air Force on July 31, 1993, after 28 years of distinguished service. His military decorations include the Bronze Star with combat V, the Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam’s Staff Service Medal (First Class).
Following his military service, Col. Makal was employed at BDM Engineering and TRW, now Northrop Grumman. He retired from TRW in 2003. In his free time, Makal was an avid low-handicap golfer and doted on his lawn and garden.
Online obituary link: www.legacy.com/jsonline/DeathNotices.asp?Page=LifeStory&a…
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