By Mr. Peter Chadwick (IMCOM)April 2, 2009
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- "Superman" debuted in the newspaper comic strips Jan. 16, 1939. Filming began on the epic film "Gone With the Wind" 10 days later. While both are public milestones, a much quieter one occurred three days after filming started - the birth in Bradenton, Fla., of a man who would dedicate more than 50 years of his life to federal service.
Flavius Futch's retirement ceremony was held at The Commons at Fort McPherson March 19. His friends and family were joined by well wishers from across the Installation Management Command-Southeast, to celebrate a career that spanned nearly six decades.
Futch served IMCOM-SE from 2002 until retirement and was its first region food program manager and logistic services expert, according to his biography.
The Southeast Region won the top small and large Philip A. Connelly Memorial Award for Army food service excellence this past year, said Davis D. Tindoll Jr., the director of IMCOM-SE. "That's a good thing to retire on."
There aren't many who have the opportunity to serve the Army 30 years as a Soldier and 22 more as a civilian," said Tindoll. "[He's been] a tremendous servant to his country."
Futch's service began with basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in 1956.
"My mom and dad signed for me to join the reserves while I was in high school," said Futch. "I belonged to the 231st Floating Craft Transportation Company in St Petersburg, Fla."
Futch quickly decided to go active duty. He wanted to be a surveyor, but the Army told him his eyes weren't good enough so, instead, they made him a cook.
Futch said the news didn't bother him because he was already familiar with the tasks required.
"I cooked at home all through high school," said Futch. "[I] worked through lunch hour [at school], scraping dishes, taking out trash. I earned my lunch so my mom didn't have to provide me one. I just got good at it."
With both home and Army training under his belt, Futch set off for his first duty assignment at Fort Bragg, N.C., in January of 1957, to begin his career in Army food service.
His first taste of leadership came at Patton Barracks in Heidelberg, Germany, and Futch achieved the rank of specialist 5th class, the noncommissioned officer equivalent to the Army's sergeant rank today.
"When I made Spec. 5, I was made first cook," said Futch. "That meant I was king of the kitchen."
Futch never felt his "kingship" meant he wasn't supposed to work.
"I spent 22 years on the floor [doing everything from] mopping the floors to running the mess hall," he said.
He was driven by his daily missions.
"You knew you were going to meet those three suspenses a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner," said Futch. "[That was] 365 days a year and you get to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas."
On holidays, Futch would bring his sons in to help out, even if it was just putting the shrimp cocktails out on the tables. To Futch, family is more than important - it's imperative.
"It's more than just the [NCO], it's the family," said Futch. "They are somebody you come home to and somebody there in time of need. The Soldier and his Family are inseparable."
Futch worked to instill his basic philosophy in his cooks.
"I tell my cooks you have to love it," said Futch. "If you don't love it, leave it."
Many of those who took his wisdom to heart have come back to thank him.
"The best compliment you could ever get is for somebody to come back to you and tell you that you helped shape his career," said Futch.
Futch's career took him around the world. In addition to his time in Germany, he did a tour in Vietnam and served in Alaska and Korea.
In 1981, Futch was selected for sergeant major. He said it was the first promotion that caused a little conflict in his mind.
"Sooner or later you have to delegate authority," said Futch. "That was the hardest thing for me to do. I always wanted to make sure everything was alright."
Even though he didn't have his hands on the day-to-day activities of food service, Futch said he could not keep from mentoring cooks, even when he became a Civilian employee at U.S. Army Forces Command.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Princido Texidor recalled a time when Futch came down to inspect Texidor's dining facility operation Fort Bragg, N.C.
"He came up, put his arm around my neck and pulled me aside," said Texidor, now the FORSCOM food service advisor. Futch proceeded to point out the areas that needed adjusting and how to make the improvements.
Futch said he was always looking for ways to improve food service operations.
Futch said one organization he worked with had been keeping food service account data on an engineer graphical grid sheet in pencil, taped together with scotch tape. He said the document was so long, it took a whole warehouse to unroll and view it, and that employees wore out 100 erasers every time they had to make changes to something that happened six months earlier.
"I knew there had to be a better way," he said.
With his colleague, Harold Rommelman, Futch went through a series of trial-and-error tests with computer systems until they found the right fix.
"We now track almost every butter patty," said Futch.
With retirement, Futch is no longer concerned with numbers of butter patties or food service operations. In fact, his career seems to have come full circle to when he started his service in St. Petersburg, as now he will once again be spending time on water craft.
"I have a very nice bass boat my wife bought for me last April," said Futch. "As long as I can afford to drag it down to the lake, I'm going fishing, whether I catch anything or not."