A native of Hialeah, Florida and a graduate of Indiana State University,
Commander McDonald was commissioned an Ensign upon completion of Aviation Officer Candidate School in September 1991. He was designated a Naval Aviator in March1993.
His first fleet tour was at Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SIX (HC-6) in Norfolk, Virginia. He served as Training and Tactics Officer. He deployed aboard USS CONCORD (AFS-5), USS SIRIUS (AFS-8), and USS GUAM (LPH-9) in support of Kosovo Implementation Force and numerous operations in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Persian Gulf, and North Atlantic.
In July 1997, he reported to Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHTEEN (HT-18) as an Instructor Pilot. In addition to his flight instructor duties, he served as Helicopter Student Control Officer, Tactics Officer, and Athletic Officer.
Commander McDonald, in May of 2000 was selected to be part of a team to lead the Navy’s newest helicopter, the MH-60S “Knighthawk” in transition to the fleet, replacing the aging CH-46 “Sea Knight”. After initial training on the H-60 in Mayport, FL and San Diego, CA, he reported to Test and Evaluation Squadron ONE (VX-1) in Patuxent River, MD as the Tactics Team Lead for the MH-60S.
He reported in May of 2002 to Helicopter Sea Combat Support Squadron TWO EIGHT (HSC-28) and served as Tactics Department Head, a Naval Special Warfare Flight Instructor (SWTI), and Operations Officer. He deployed as Officer in Charge of Detachment FOUR assigned to USS Mt Baker (AE-34) for Supply and Search & Rescue missions. Upon his departure from HSC-28 he was recognized by the Sikorsky Aircraft Company for outstanding leadership and dedication to the MH-60S program and his efforts transitioning two squadrons from the venerable H-46 to the MH-60S, all the while achieving over 1200 flight hours in a two-year period.
In March 2005 Commander McDonald reported to U.S. Southern Command in Miami, FL as the Security Cooperation Officer (SCO). He was the primary advisor to the Combatant Commander regarding all security cooperation matters. His primary duties were coordinating policy and budgetary inputs to interagency security cooperation organizations for all South American Countries. He also served on SOUTHCOM’s Inspector General (IG) team as the team lead regarding all security cooperation matters.
Commander McDonald reported to Allied Air Component Command Headquarters, Izmir Turkey in March 2009 for a one year Individual Augmentee (IA). He was assigned as the maritime air exercise officer responsible for the planning, directing, and conducting of NATO Air Component Command HQ exercises. Due to manning short falls and his experience as a Naval helicopter pilot in tactics, search and rescue and logistics, CDR McDonald volunteered to become and evaluator to assist in the HQ’s Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) evaluation and feedback program. He evaluated Partner for Peace (PfP) countries to cooperate with NATO led Crisis Response Operations/contingencies.
Commander McDonald returned to U.S. Southern Command in March of 2010. He finished out his Naval career serving as the Chief of Maritime Operations, responsible for advising the Combatant Commander on combined full-spectrum military, interagency operations and whole-of-government efforts supporting U.S. and Partner Nation national security interest. Defense Readiness Reporting Officer, performing critical readiness assessments, consolidate and report staff actions, support SOUTHCOM Commander's priorities and capability gaps. And lastly serving as the Liaison Officer to U.S. Naval Forces South/FOURTH Fleet, his primary duties required daily interaction during joint planning and operations, successfully conducting negotiations designed to secure agreements between Joint Force Headquarters, component commands, and US Government Agency offices to support Department of Defense guidance and policies. Commander McDonald retired in November 2014.
In his Naval career he has accumulated more than 4000 total mishap free flight hours, recording over 1,000 hours in 3 different type models H-60 (S,H,F,B) Sea Hawk, H-46 Sea Knight, TH-57 Sea Ranger. Decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal with two gold stars, Navy Achievement Medal with gold star, and various unit and theater awards and citations.