McCausland, who was commissioned through the Syracuse University ROTC program and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from the College of Arts and Sciences, worked in logistics and supply, retiring in 1992 from his final assignment as director of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in Virginia. Among many other positions, he was commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, Utah, and vice commander of Air Force Logistics Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Since retiring, McCausland, whose father, Gordon B. McCausland, was a Class of 1926 Syracuse graduate, is active with educational institutions and serves as a director of the Dynamics Research Corporation.
What are some highlights of your career that you are most proud of?
I was a base supply officer during a yearlong tour in Vietnam. I had worked in supply in the Air Force for 10 years and there I was in a position I had trained for all those years—to support combat operations. We went 270 days without an aircraft grounded for a spare part. I was proud of the troops.
While I was at the DLA, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney came to the agency following the First Gulf War. He told us, “We could not have won the Gulf War without the DLA.” General Colin Powell [then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] came a week later. He thanked us for our support and gave the agency the Joint Meritorious Unit award, which was a really nice event.
What were your responsibilities during your time as director of the Defense Logistics Agency? And during the First Gulf War?
We had 95,000 civilian and military employees, operating at various depots and centers. We were responsible for approximately five million spare parts, which would cover aviation, ground support, missile systems, maritime naval systems, just a whole gamut of items. We were responsible for all fuels, petroleum products, food, clothing, tents, uniforms, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals—and for cataloging and contracting for those items. It was about a $13 billion operation.
In the First Gulf War, we supplied all these things to the deployed forces. For example, we had 500,000 troops in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and then into Iraq, so we had to have a million-and-a-half meals a day, every day. Also, the Air Force reported they had 90,000 sorties and did not lose one sortie for lack of a spare part. The Patriot missile system has 20,000 parts, and there were only 10 items we had difficulty obtaining.
What did you learn about the significance of logistics and supply through your service?
When I was out at the Utah depot, we had a visiting Chinese general in 1986 who had been on the Long March [1934-35] with Mao Zedong. He said through an interpreter that “logistics is hero without fame.” The logistics worked so well in the Gulf War and Vietnam. There’s been a little complacency that it could work that well forever, but you always have to keep your eye on it because it’s very important.
What did you come to learn were the most important qualities of being a leader?
The basic thing is you have to lead people and you have to manage things. A lot of people try to manage people, but you have to lead them. You have to have integrity in what you do and say. You have to have standards and stick by them. You have to communicate with your people and listen to them. You also have to trust and empower them in their work.
This story was first published on December 14, 2017 and last updated on . It also appeared as “Lessons in Leadership” in the issue of Syracuse University Magazine.
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