Every morning, Theodore Spellacy, 88, 21st Theater Sustainment Command deputy chief of personnel, walks the halls of his office building greeting colleagues as he makes his way to his fourth-floor office on Panzer Kaserne.
Despite Spellacy’s mild-but-cheerful presence, many are unaware he has been shaping the 21st Theater Sustainment Command for 41 years and serving the U.S. Army for 70.
Spellacy was recognized for his service during a length of service ceremony, Feb. 6, at the Kaiserslautern Community Activity Center on Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern.
“I honestly do not know how I ended up here today,” Spellacy said. “I joined the military many years ago because I wanted to serve my country. That’s just what you did back then. The opportunity has afforded me and will afford junior Soldiers countless occasions to grow and develop as a leader and as a person. I went to work, I did my job, and I’ve loved almost every minute of it.”
Maj. Gen. Steven A. Shapiro, 21st Theater Sustainment Command commanding general, recognized the contributions of Spellacy and his wife, Irmtraud. Shapiro presented her with a certificate of appreciation for patriotic civilian service.
“You can’t do this without a foundation of family,” Shapiro said to Spellacy. “We wanted to make sure that we recognized your wife as well.”
Spellacy started his military career at the age of 17 when he enlisted into the United States Army from Steubenville, Ohio, in 1948.
“Back then, you graduate high school and that’s just what you do,” Spellacy said. “You join the Army.”
He continued to have a military career that spanned more than 30 years where he would serve several tours in South Korea, be a part of the first graduating Army Ranger training class in 1950, and serve as a Ranger instructor at Ranger Mountain Camp in Dahlonega, Georgia.
Spellacy also sat on the Army’s first command sergeants major board and helped design the new roles and responsibilities of the position. He was assigned to the 21st Support Command — now the 21st Theater Sustainment Command — in 1978, before retiring from uniformed Army service in 1984 as the second command sergeant major in the command’s history.
“Making command sergeant major was the real highlight of my career,” Spellacy said. “You see, when I started my career the highest rank an enlisted Soldier could make was an E-7. Then the Army came out with sergeant major. I was in the second group to make sergeant major; then the Army came out with command sergeant major, and I was in the second group to be selected for that. It was a proud time to serve the Army and see all the changes.”
Spellacy attributes his fulfilling Army career to understanding one fact about military leadership.
“The leadership role of command sergeant major was new back then and many of my colleagues would brag about the title and talk about how they have 15,000 Soldiers working for them,” Spellacy said. “I’d say, ‘they ain’t working for you, you are working for them.’ The Soldiers are not serving me as a sergeant major, I was serving them as a leader.”
But in Spellacy’s long-standing Army career, before becoming command sergeant major, he did question twice if the military was right for him. Spellacy left the Army twice, but rejoined less than 90 days later. Spellacy said Soldiers at the time could separate for less than 90 days, rejoin, and lose only 90 days of time in service at their current pay grade.
“I got out of the military,” he said. “In those days you could get out of the service for up to 90 days. I wanted to see something else, do something else. Maybe go to school. Not too long into my 90 days, I got a letter from the Army asking me to come back. I jumped back on the opportunity to serve again. I missed it. It was a little after the second World War, and everyone was stepping back up to the call.”
The call was also what brought Spellacy back to government service following his Army retirement.
“When I started looking at retirement, I really wasn’t sure what I would be doing or what life would look like after the army, but luckily I had several job offers and I just rolled directly into civil service,” Spellacy said. “I knew I wanted to continue to serve my country so it was a good fit to stay with the TSC.”