By Dick Mason
Observer Staff Writer
Maj. Dan McCabe, the commander of the National Guard's La Grande-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry, has two choices when he wants to meet with a representative of the Salem-based 206th Quartermaster Battalion.
The La Grande resident can travel to Salem.
Or he can drive home.
McCabe knows the commander of the 206th Quartermaster Battalion well ¬ó the National Guard leader is his wife, Lt. Col. Rosemarie McCabe.
The McCabes, who live in La Grande, are walking military history ¬ó the first husband and wife team ever to serve simultaneously as commanders of National Guard battalions in Oregon.
"We have some interesting dinner conversations,'' said Rosemarie. "We give each other a good support base. It is an unusual chance for two commanders to talk freely and openly.''
Dan was installed as commander of his battalion on Sept. 21 and Rosemarie has headed her Salem-based battalion since April.
Rosemarie said that having a husband who also serves in the National Guard ultimately makes things easier for her.
"It would be difficult to be married to someone who wasn't in the National Guard. They wouldn't understand the phone calls in the middle of the night and being sent to places like Korea and Europe,'' she said.
The 206th Quartermaster Battalion Rosemarie McCabe commands is a supply unit. Its war-time mission is to provide combat units with supplies across the battlefield. Rosemarie directs the battalion from La Grande through the telephone, e-mail and video conferencing. She has to make at least one trip to Salem a month and often more. Her battalion has about 200 members.
The 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry, that Dan McCabe commands is a tank unit. It has about 500 members.
As battalion commanders Dan and Rosemarie have uncommon time constraints and pressure. Still, the emphasis on their life is their family.
"The National Guard is an important part of our lives but it isn't everything,'' Dan said. "Family and church is the base on which you live your life.''
The McCabes have one daughter, Erin, 12, who is a student at
La Grande Middle School. Erin is becoming increasingly interested in her parents' careers.
"It is a great civics lesson for her. It is a great opportunity to learn about civics every day and how and why it relates to freedom, responsibility and citizenship,'' Dan said.
McCabe was second in command as an executive officer with the 3-116th the past three years. He has been with the unit for 10 years. The 3-116th is comprised of National Guard companies in Baker City, Pendleton, Ontario, The Dalles, and Hermiston. La Grande is the site of its headquarters.
McCabe, who enlisted in the Army in 1984, is a graduate of Oregon State University.
Rosemarie joined the Army in 1975 as a member of the 67th Army Band. She is a student at Eastern Oregon University, where she is earning a master's degree in music education. She is also studying Spanish and German at EOU.
Dan and Rosemarie, who have been married for 13 years, met while stationed at an Army base in Georgia.
Both have been overseas many times while on military assignments alone. Europe and Korea are the places they've traveled to.
"We have been to places we never would have otherwise seen,'' Dan McCabe said.
He said that the most fulfilling part of his job is working with young people.
"They are people looking for direction who are not sure what they want to do in a lot of cases,'' McCabe said. "We can help give them a foundation of self discipline and leadership they can apply the rest of their lives.''
The down side of being in the National Guard is that there are a lot times when one has to be out of town because of battalion responsibilities.
"There are a lot of birthdays and anniversaries that you miss. I don't remember when I've been home for Father's Day in the last 10 years,'' Dan said.
Rosemarie is gone just as frequently. Dan said that this has allowed him to broaden his perspective.
"I become Mr. Mom,'' he said.
McCabe noted that his wife was gone all of September because of National Guard responsibilities. He thus had to help get his daughter prepared for middle school and take over many household tasks.
"It is a great opportunity to see what my wife goes through when she runs the household,'' Dan McCabe said.
McCabe noted that some people leave the National Guard because their spouse cannot understand the time requirements they face.
"It's hard to communicate and visualize what we have to do,'' Dan said.
The McCabes, of course, do not have this problem.
"It makes it easier for us to understand and empathize,'' Dan said.
Despite the stress they experience, neither Dan nor Rosemarie regret being part of the National Guard. They're energized by the challenges they face.
"No day is the same. Day to to day there is always something new to deal with. The fruits of your labor are seen quickly,'' Dan said. "It's really a lot fun. I can't think of anything else I'd like to do.''