ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Command Sgt. Major James E. Spencer became top enlisted Soldier of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command during a Jan. 18 change of responsibility ceremony held in building 299, here.

Spencer assumed responsibility from Command Sgt. Major Stephen D. Blake, who had served ASC since June 2008. In a retirement ceremony following the handover, Blake was honored for his 30 years of military service.

Maj. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, ASC commanding general, presided over both ceremonies.

The change of responsibility ceremony is steeped in military traditions and serves a dual function of rendering honors to the departing command sergeant major and providing official recognition of the transfer of authority to the incoming command sergeant major.

To mark the change of responsibility, Sgt. Major Keith Jones, ASC G2 sergeant major, handed the NCO sword to Blake, who then passed it to McQuistion. McQuistion continued the rotation to Spencer. With his position as top enlisted Soldier established, Spencer then passed the sword back to Jones for safekeeping.

"This is a very special day for two exceptional families and a day of celebration, mixed with just a touch of sadness," said McQuistion. "We celebrate the careers of two American heroes - men who, 30 and 26 years ago, each raised their right hand and swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

McQuistion remarked that Blake had accomplished much in his time here, and even though she has known him for a very short time, this made no difference. "Most of you here have known Command Sgt. Major Blake longer than I have, but I will tell you that it takes no time at all to understand that he embodies every Army value: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage," she said.

In his farewell remarks, Blake praised his family for all of their love and support throughout his military career. He presented a token of appreciation to his wife, Karen, and each of his children - Amber, Jacqueline, Joshua and Elijah.

"I know their knees are worn from praying for my safety," he said, "… their untiring support of my career, which they don't always understand … but they love me all the same."

"No man could be more humble than I am at this very moment," Blake said. "As I was saluting during the National Anthem, my brain was trying to tell me that my Soldier days were over, but my heart told me, 'I will always be a Soldier.' It has truly been an honor to serve you."

Moving the spotlight from Blake to Spencer, McQuistion said, "I might well be in tears that this day has arrived, except for one thing, and that is I know the caliber of the Soldier who will step into Command Sgt. Major Blake's footprints and the team who will continue to lead in a similar fashion."

As Command Sergeant Major, Spencer will serve as the primary advisor to the ASC commanding general on all matters pertaining to enlisted personnel assigned to the command. Particularly, he will oversee all areas related to training and development and to the quality of life and well-being of Soldiers and their families.

"Laura and I are committed to continue providing the outstanding level of support and service to this command and the Quad Cities," Spencer said.

Spencer continued by thanking retired Maj. Gen. Yves Fontaine, former ASC commanding general, and McQuistion for the opportunity to serve ASC as top enlisted Soldier.

"I appreciate you having the trust and confidence in me and for hiring me for this position," he said. "I am honored to be your command sergeant major."

Spencer comes to ASC from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command in Kaiserslautern, Germany. A native of Humboldt, Tenn., Spencer began his Army career in 1986.

Previous assignments have taken him to Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Germany. Among his professional training are the basic Airborne and Air Assault courses, Warrior Leader Course, Battle Staff Course and the Army Sergeants Major Academy.

His decorations include two Bronze Star Medals, two Southwest Asia Service Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and three Iraq Campaign Medals. He is a Master Parachutist, who also holds parachute badges from Honduras, Germany and Australia. He holds the Combat Action Badge and is a member of the Honorable Order of Saint Martin.
Spencer's academic credentials include a bachelor's degree in management and human resources from Park University and a master's in project management from Columbia Southern University.

He's joined here by his wife Laura and their three children; Matthew, Andrew and Alivia.

In a retirement ceremony immediately following the change of responsibility, McQuistion decorated Blake with the Distinguished Service Medal. His other decorations include the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals, four Southwest Asia Service Medals and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He wears the Air Assault Badge and is a member of the Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharpe.

Blake concludes his military career, during which he held a variety of enlisted leadership positions. He served much of his career with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), during which he was made a Distinguished Member of the 3rd Brigade, 187th Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans).

Blake's wife was honored for her steadfast service to the Army Family and unfailing support of her husband. McQuistion also presented his children with "Army Brat" awards for their continued love and support of their father's career.