Hillcrest grad journeys to uncomfortable Navy heights
By: Karen Chaney
Chad McCaskill grew up in Preston Hollow – emphasis on up.
He’d reached 6 feet, 4 inches by the time he enrolled at Stephen F. Austin University, and his growth spurt wasn’t nearly done.
He grew two more inches before pausing college to join the U.S. Navy in 1991.
“I chose the Navy over any other branch of service because I thought my chances of travel were far greater,” McCaskill said. “I didn’t think my height was an issue because no one said anything.”
He was wrong (and not done growing), as he would soon learn on the USS Nimitz nuclear-powered aircraft carrier bound for the Persian Gulf.
“When I got to the ship, I immediately thought I was too tall,” McCaskill said. “The average ceiling on ship is 6 feet tall, so I had to walk kind of bent over. I didn’t want to say anything because I was afraid I would get stuck in Bremerton, Washington, for four years.”
Walking stooped over caused his back to ache, so he went to the ship’s doctor.
“It was funny: They didn’t have anything on the ship to measure how tall I was,” McCaskill said.
While docked, he went to a doctor in the Philippines and learned he had grown two more inches.
A ship’s attorney recommended McCaskill leave the ship. After the pain persisted and a second request, the captain acquiesced.
McCaskill flew to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, where he spent a week before the journey home.
“They flew me back the opposite way through Italy to Norfolk, Virginia,” he said. “I got to travel around the world, which I thought was really cool.”
McCaskill enjoyed Norfolk and hoped to finish his four-year stint there.
But the Navy has a policy, he explained. “‘If you’re not fit for sea, you’re not fit for shore.’ I got an honorable discharge for being excessively too tall eight months into my four-year enlistment.”
After the Navy, McCaskill added one more inch, headed to college, and then worked setting up sales appointments for graphic design firms and honing the telemarketing skills he employed when opening a business in 2002.
In 2021, the Dallas native opened his Six Star DFW driving service “to help people get somewhere in a calm, organized fashion.”
“Growing up here, I know basically every back road there is (and) how to avoid traffic on the toll road or 75,” he said.
Today, when he drives by Preston Hollow Park, he recalls fond memories of practicing soccer.
The highlights of his Hillcrest High School years were getting his driver’s license and competing with the golf team, coached by Mr. Head, his chemistry teacher.
“My dad and uncle went to Hillcrest in the ‘60s, and Mr. Head was their science teacher, too,” McCaskill said.
Though initially discouraged about being too tall for the Navy, McCaskill doesn’t feel he came up short.
“It probably would have been interesting to spend the four years (in the Navy), but I don’t have any regrets,” he said.