Lt. Col. McDonald began his military career when he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in May 1995. His military education includes The Basic School, Armor Officer Advanced Course, Amphibious Warfare School (non-resident), Cavalry Leaders Course (mobile training team), Command and Staff College (non-resident), and Joint Forces Staff College. He is also a graduate of several specialty courses including: Basic Chinese Mandarin, Security Cooperation Planners Course, and Red Team Members Course. Lt. Col. McDonald’s civilian education includes a Bachelor’s in International Relations from The George Washington University, a Master’s in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School, and completion of the Seminar XXI Program for national security leaders run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Lt. Col. McDonald’s attachment to Asia-Pacific region began during his junior year of university, when his rowing team went on an exchange trip to Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan. This experience led him to further study the region and ultimately to request assignment to Asia when he applied for the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) program. After completing FAO training in Monterey, CA and Beijing, PRC, LtCol McDonald returned to 1st Tank Battalion for a tour in his primary occupational specialty. In 2005, he reported to US Embassy Canberra, Australia as the Marine Corps Attaché. In 2008, he was transferred to Taipei to work at the American Institute in Taiwan, as the first active duty Marine Corps representative since 1979. During this time he served as the US Liaison Officer to the Taiwan 8th Army during US military support to Typhoon Morakot relief operations. Following this tour he joined the Plans Directorate at III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) in 2011, serving first as a regional planner, and subsequently as the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, Plans. During this period he deployed to the Philippines in support of relief operations in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
Other military experience includes two deployments to Iraq, including Operation Iraqi Freedom I in March 2003 as Headquarters and Service Company Commander and a 2004 tour with Regimental Combat Team-1, where he served as a Tank Maintenance Detachment OIC and Future Operations Officer. Most recently, LtCol McDonald served at Headquarters, Marine Corps as a Strategic Analyst in the Commandant’s Strategic Initiatives Group. In August 2015 he was hand selected by the Director, Marine Corps Staff to lead Headquarters, Marine Corps’ Strategic Communications Cell, which he designed and established as the Communication Synchronization Cell of the Office of Marine Corps Communication.