REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Command Sergeant Major Jeffrey J. Mellinger will participate in his last change of responsibility here, when he relinquishes his responsibilities as Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Materiel Command in a formal ceremony Friday.

This is his last official ceremony before he receives another military order; retirement.

He retires Oct. 3, 2011 in a ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., ending his tenure as the longest continuously serving enlisted draftee.

With a chuckle, Mellinger reflected on the moment he was "invited" into the United States military. A letter arrived from the President.

"What president? The president of the electric company, the bank or …I didn't know any presidents and I thought she was kidding," Mellinger said.

Mellinger recalled the letter's opening, "Greetings from the President of the United States. Your friends and neighbors have selected you to represent [them] in the armed forces of the United States. You are hereby ordered to report for induction no later than April 18, 1972."

And so began the start of Mellinger's nearly 40 year career of service to the nation.

He described the attributes of the military culture where everyone is treated according to their skills and attributes instead of the family they came from as one reason he stayed.

Each time I reenlisted it was a conscious decision," Mellinger said. "What always brought me to the point that I decided to reenlist after the first one was that I liked what I was doing and the people I worked with."

"The most rewarding part really is the Soldiers. It's all about the Soldiers," Mellinger said.

"I'm very proud of what I've done and the contributions I've made and the Soldiers and civilians I've helped along the way. In that respect, I have no regrets. I just wish I had more time to do it."

"I'd stay for another 20 years if the Army would let me, if my legs and my back, my eyes and ears and everything else continued to work," he said. "I can't think of anywhere else you'd go to do any kind of work that would be as personally satisfying on a daily basis than serving the nation."

While finding military life satisfying, Mellinger was no exception to the challenges it could hold.

"The difficult part is always going to be losing people," Mellinger said. "Separations from family --that's hard, whether it's for three days or for three years. It's tough on you as an individual."

After almost 40 years of continuous enlistment, the looming question of what's next is still unanswered for one of the longest serving draftees.

"I'm too busy being AMC's sergeant major to think about 'next' right now but at the point I'm not the AMC Sergeant Major I'll start really getting consumed with it. I know I'm going to retire. I know there is something else I'm probably going to do, but I don't have time to think about next yet," Mellinger said.

Mellinger left these words to the workforce, "To the AMC team I say thanks. As an old Soldier I can walk away and feel pretty proud and pretty happy and confident when I tell people: 'your sons and daughters are being very well taken care of they have what they need and they have the right stuff'."

Page last updated Tue August 23rd, 2011 at 19:41