By SUSANNE KAPPLER, Fort Jackson LeaderJune 3, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- A lot has changed in the almost 30 years that Melvin McDill has been an instructor with the 369th Adjutant General Battalion. Typewriters have been replaced by computers, blackboards have been replaced by projector screens and the Soldiers he trains are no longer classified as administrative specialists, but rather human resource specialists.
McDill will retire at the end of the month after 50 years of federal service, including 21 years in the Army. In 1958, he enlisted as a documentary photographer Aca,!"Aca,!" a job in which he was embedded in various units to take pictures and film of their missions.
During one such assignment in Grafenwoehr, Germany, McDill met Elvis Presley, who served in the Army at the time.
Aca,!A"He was a pretty nice guy,Aca,!A? McDill remembered. Aca,!A"It was a couple of weeks before Christmas and he was sitting in a jeep. ... And all these kids were around. He had two crates of fruit in the back of the jeep. He gave (the children) fruit and candy for Christmas.Aca,!A?
After a stint as a recruiter, McDill reclassified as an administrative specialist, which ultimately led to his civilian job as an instructor with the 369th.
Aca,!A"People ask me, Soldiers ask me, Aca,!EoeWhat was the Army like in your time'Aca,!a,,c Well, youAca,!a,,cd have to focus on what society was like back then as compared to now before you compare how the Army was,Aca,!A? he said.
McDill said that many people today have different values than when he was a young man. Despite those differences, he said he remained passionate about teaching young Soldiers.
Aca,!A"I like Soldiers,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"TheyAca,!a,,cre the only people between us and somebody elseAca,!a,,cs army trying to put flags up our poles.Aca,!A?
His supervisor, Bennie Evans, said that McDill was a special instructor who had the ability to inspire the Soldiers in Advanced Individual Training.
Aca,!A"He took the time and patience to do that,Aca,!A? Evans said. Aca,!A"He spent his own personal time to work with Soldiers. He had the unique ability to take a complex task and break it down into little segments ... and then, at the end, put all the pieces together.Aca,!A?
For Evans, McDillAca,!a,,cs retirement symbolizes the end of an era, he said. McDill is the last instructor of his generation to retire from the 369th.
Aca,!A"HeAca,!a,,cs a special person,Aca,!A? Evans said. Aca,!A"I think sometimes people donAca,!a,,ct see the value in continuity, see the value of experience.Aca,!A?
One of the reasons why McDill excelled as an instructor was because of his tireless work ethic in the face of constantly evolving lesson plans, Evans said.
Aca,!A"People do not realize how difficult it is to teach a subject that you never taught before Aca,!"Aca,!" the amount of work, the amount of time you have to spend to get in front of a class of 28 or more students and present this material to a generation, four generations behind you,Aca,!A? Evans said.
McDill, 71, said he thinks his vast amount of experience helped him connect with Soldiers, regardless of the generational gap.
Aca,!A"Whatever problem they have as far as the Army is concerned, I can say IAca,!a,,cve been there,Aca,!A? he said.
Even though he is officially retiring, McDill said he is not quite ready to rest on his laurels yet.
Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cm going to get some kind of job a couple of days a week,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"I donAca,!a,,ct want to sit down. You have to keep a routine going.Aca,!A?