By Kari Hawkins, AMCFebruary 3, 2020
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger carries with him the legacy of a drafted Soldier who turned an order into an opportunity.
Mellinger was drafted into the Army in April 1972, placing him among the last of nearly 2 million men ordered to serve in the Vietnam-era military before the Armed Forces moved to an all-volunteer military in 1973. That call to duty put Mellinger on a career path to become one of the Army's most highly respected non-commissioned officers, and with 39 years of service, one of its last few remaining active-duty enlisted draftees.
Mellinger, who served as the command sergeant major for the Army Materiel Command before retiring in December 2011, will be among five candidates inducted into the Army Materiel Command Hall of Fame on March 10. He is the only enlisted draftee among the candidates.
The son of a U.S. Marine, a 19-year-old Mellinger was working as a drywall hanger in Eugene, Oregon, when he came home one day to find a draft notice in the mail. After basic and advanced training at Fort Ord, California, airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and two years as a clerk in West Germany, Mellinger was ready to go back to civilian life. But, his company commander convinced him to re-enlist by giving him the chance to join the Army Rangers.
Mellinger's Ranger career took him all over the world, with tours in Japan and a 33-month deployment to Iraq. He was described as "a national asset" by commanding officer Gen. David Petraeus, who relied on Mellinger's insight into battlefield morale in Iraq. Mellinger's commitment to serve side-by-side with enlisted Soldiers put him in the line of fire numerous times, including 27 roadside bombings with two of those destroying his vehicle.
In May 2007, he became the 13th command sergeant major of the Army Materiel Command. During his time with AMC, he assisted in the organization's relocation from Virginia to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. As an infantryman, he brought a unique perspective and insight to AMC's mission to provide the best equipment to the warfighter.
In retirement stories that ran in Time magazine, The Washington Times and Associated Press, Mellinger said he was most proud when Soldiers he trained were successful in the Army. "I can think of several Soldiers who went on to become command sergeants major who were privates when I was either their squad leader or their drill sergeant," Mellinger said.
As a senior enlisted Soldier, Mellinger said the reward was "watching those Soldiers I've left a fingerprint on come into their own right as good leaders. I just hope I've helped them see things in themselves, things they wouldn't have otherwise seen to make them better, to make them think that they could be something or do something they didn't think they wanted or could do. The best you can hope for is that you've created better leaders than you were yourself."
Mellinger is a member of the National Society of Sons of the American Revolution, and a Distinguished Member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, and has been presented the Order of Saint Maurice (Primicerius), the Order of the Combat Spur, the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara and the General Brehon B. Somervell Medal of Excellence.
His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (2nd award), Bronze Star Medal with V, Meritorious Service Medal (8th award), Army Commendation Medal (7th award), Army Achievement Medal (4th award), Army Good Conduct Medal (13th award), Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral 8, Iraqi Campaign Medal (3) and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals. In 2018, Mellinger received the Vigiano Family Hope and Courage Award from Hope for the Warriors.