Veteran looks back on life of military, civilian service as 80 nears

By Mr. Karl Weisel (IMCOM)July 17, 2015

Veteran looks back on life of military, civilian service as 80 nears
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Veteran looks back on life of military, civilian service as 80 nears
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – From left, Col. Mary Martin recognizes Joyce and Dr. Robert Schloesser with a special award recognizing their contributions to helping the garrison win the
Army Communities of Excellence Award as Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Rocco assists during the Schloe... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
Veteran looks back on life of military, civilian service as 80 nears
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WIESBADEN, Germany (July 16, 2015) -- "Tireless, caring, dedicated to taking care of Soldiers and their Families."

"A straight shooter, who doesn't pull any punches - he tells it like it is."

"Always looking out for everyone's best interest."

These are just a few of the observations by friends and coworkers about Dr. Robert Schloesser, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden's former director of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, or FMWR.

Schloesser, who will celebrate his 80th birthday in August, wrapped up a highly-lauded career in April after having served as a U.S. Army officer for 27 years including two tours to Vietnam, as an Army civilian for many more and having been recognized as a Distinguished Eagle Scout by the Boy Scouts of America.

"I started drawing Social Security at age 62 as soon as I was eligible. Meanwhile I have continued to pay into it up until today," Schloesser said. "The reason I started at age 62 was because I was convinced the Social Security account would run dry."

As the main force in guiding how the wide range of FMWR support services are provided to Wiesbaden military community members, Schloesser has been an ever-present force - on the scene with a smile and expert guidance at weekend fun runs, helping MC Independence Day celebrations and constantly looking for ways to enhance the quality of life for service members and their Families serving overseas. He was also a significant contributor to the garrison having been named the Army's most outstanding military community in successive Army Community of Excellence competitions.

"His leadership and creativity made the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation the best in the Army," said Dr. Robert Kandler, the garrison's former deputy to the commander and a fellow U.S. Army veteran and retired Army civilian.

Kandler, who worked with Schloesser in various capacities for nearly 25 years, called him "a change agent who represents all that is best in both an Army officer and as a civil servant - the consummate MWR professional, who cares deeply about the community he serves."

Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Europe's command inspector general and former garrison commander, said Schloesser "cares for Soldiers and the community like no one else with whom I've served in 27 years.

"From world-class special events, to a never ending series of sports/health programs, to the best child youth services program in the Army, Bob Schloesser made USAG Wiesbaden 'THE' place to live," Carstens said.

Carstens said he will miss "Dr. Bob's [as he was known around the Wiesbaden military community] honesty, his sense of teamwork and his can-do attitude. Whatever the garrison commander asked him to do, he delivered … at a scale and degree of quality that was well beyond the anticipated result."

Schloesser, a native of Newark, New Jersey, grew up around the military as his father served as the sergeant major of the 15th Signal Regiment on Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. As a Boy Scout, he achieved the rank of Eagle in 1951.

"I made my decision as a young guy in grammar school that I wanted to serve in the military. I wanted the excitement of being a Soldier," he said.

While "bad eyes" kept him out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Schloesser said he went on to become an officer in 1958 - commanding at the company, battalion and brigade levels - with a Reserve Officer Training Corps commission.

He also volunteered to serve in Vietnam, arriving for his first of two tours on Christmas 1962. "I ran a small depot on the Saigon River and was there when they overthrew President [Ngo Dinh] Diem [president of the Republic of Vietnam]."

During that time, while sharing a private home with air medical evacuation (dust-off) crew members, Schloesser said he frequently volunteered to serve as a door gunner on rescue missions. "You just did those kinds of things as a single guy because you thought you were immortal."

From a time when few U.S. Soldiers were serving in the country, Schloesser returned in 1968 to join some 550,000 Americans in Vietnam.

"I was always a hard-assed commander," said Schloesser, explaining that being forthright and disciplined served him well in his career. "If you were a wuss, it wasn't healthy in Vietnam. Clearly there were conflicts … but I never stepped back from a conflict. … I just never had any discipline problems. The troops can sense when you're just bullshitting them."

Retiring from the military in 1984, Schloesser went on to work for private industry for six years before returning to U.S. Army Europe, serving in various capacities including as director of MWR in the Balkans with operations in Bosnia and Kosovo.

"That was a seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day operation," said Schloesser, describing the various ways he and his fellow MWR employees tried to enhance the quality of life for those serving as part of the international peacekeeping mission - bringing fitness equipment to remote sites, organizing runs and offering the first video teleconference calls for separated military Families. "We felt like we were really doing something of value."

Between stints as a civilian and Army civilian, Schloesser earned a doctorate in organizational leadership at age 69 from Oklahoma University. He has also continued throughout his various careers to play a role in helping young people find direction through the Boy Scouts.

"I love Scouting. It was always good to me. … If you look at the Scout law, it says something about how you should live your life," said Schloesser, describing the many opportunities for youths he has been involved with, including participating in D-Day commemorations in northern France, serving on the Transatlantic Council and helping welcome hundreds of new Eagles to the highest ranks of Scouting. "No community that I'm aware of has as many Eagles as Troop 107 in Wiesbaden."

During his many years serving Uncle Sam in Europe both as an Army officer and Department of the Army civilian, he has seen many U.S. installations come and go.

"I was here during the peak of the Cold War when we were on a war footing," said Schloesser, looking back to a time when Americans were spread out around Europe. "It was a different world."

In 2008, Schloesser managed the closure of the Hanau military community, where he had served as a young officer early in his military career.

Heinz Kaffenberger, director of the Logistics Center, Wiesbaden, 405th Army Field Support Brigade, and former director of logistics for the 104th Area Support Group in Hanau and Wiesbaden, said from his first encounter with the hard-charging Hanau closure manager in 2006, he appreciated him as an individual, who always "gets it done … [is] fair … takes care of the mission while making sure employees and customers always come first."

For Jan Meert, Wiesbaden Army community service director, Schloesser was a supervisor, who was "extremely personable and genuinely interested in people."

"He is extremely fair and good-hearted," said William Montgomery, Wiesbaden Entertainment Center business manager and former property book officer with the 414th Base Support Battalion in Hanau. "He is always looking out for everyone's best interest, but never forgets that the MWR is a business - and he doesn't want excuses, he wants profit. … His thinking outside of the box and high expectations are definitely two contributors that people will talk about for ages to come."

"He made the garrison MWR a team that sought to serve the community and believed they could meet any challenge put in their way and achieve excellence," said Cecilia Kandler, USAG Wiesbaden director of Child, Youth and School Services.

Now, Schloesser and his wife of 50 years, Joyce - another major contributor to Soldier and Family quality of life as a volunteer, who helped establish a veterans center in Hanau and serves as "Grandma Joyce" during American Girl Doll socials at the Wiesbaden Library among other projects - are enjoying retirement in Augusta, Georgia.

"I intend to write [a sequel to his Ph.D. 'Officer Trust in Army Leadership') and to travel," he said, adding that he'll miss "the old team" and the people he has encountered during his years in Germany.

"I'm always amazed at how many people greet me on the street," Schloesser said. "Because of my job, you get an awful lot of visibility. … We're never aware that we're in the midst of the best days of our lives until they're passed."

Related Links:

Wiesbaden FMWR home page Army Families Europe News U.S. Army Veterans