Growing up in the small town of Kincaid, Illinois, Anthony Mollusky Jr., of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, a member of LaFore Lock Post 755, Springfield, didn’t have a lot of options.
With only about 1,500 people, the former mining town had hit rough times. Jobs were drying up and the young man was uncertain about his future. So, he joined the Army.
It was the beginning of a 32-year journey that would take him across the world and then back to Kincaid. April 3, during a ceremony at the Illinois Military Academy on Camp Lincoln in Springfield, he retired with the highest rank an enlisted Soldier can achieve, command sergeant major.
Command Sgt. Maj. Mollusky’s last assignment was as the Command Sergeant Major of the 108th Special Troops Battalion based in Chicago. Now an information technology expert in the civilian world, Mollusky recalled what it was like as a young man trying to find himself.
"I didn’t really know what I could do by staying in the area and was unsure if college was for me,” said Mollusky. "I didn’t have a lot of information about finances or student loans, but I figured if I ever did decide to attend college, the Army would eventually pay for it.”
Mollusky enlisted into the active Army, serving seven years as a quartermaster and chemical equipment repairer. As the years progressed, he began to desire a change, informing his chain of command that he wanted to work with computers full time. Unable to change his military occupation specialty, he would transition to the Illinois Army National Guard in 1998, where he joined the same unit that his father, Anthony Mollusky Sr., had once served.
"I was about to get out of the Army because I wanted to do something different,” Mollusky said. "I wanted to work on computers and felt that’s where my career was heading. It wasn’t until I was doing my out-processing that they brought up the possibility of me going into the National Guard. That’s how I ended up in the 3637th Maintenance Company, the same unit that my dad had once served in.” But the elder Mollusky didn’t often discuss his military service. "So I didn’t learn a lot of stuff until after he passed away.”
For example, while Mollusky’s father was assigned to what was then called the 3637th Ordnance Company, he would be activated on Oct. 10, 1961 in response to the Berlin Crisis of 1961, sending him to Fort Knox.
Anthony Mollusky Sr. had some personal struggles and would pass away from a heart attack a few months after Mollusky returned to Illinois to transition to the National Guard, leaving behind a lot of unanswered questions.
"During our talks, the Guard never really came up,” Mollusky said. "After he got out of the National Guard, he got a job as a welder, until he was laid off. I think my siblings and I realized that we just had to go out and work hard. I have two older sisters and growing up we all had paper routes. … We knew that we needed to go out and make things happen to be self-sufficient.”
Serving in the Army would allow Mollusky to meet his wife, Michelle, someone he credits with being a tremendous supporter since day one.
"I met her at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1992 and in 1994 we were married,” said Mollusky. "She’s been supportive through everything. Through my deployments and annual trainings, there are times where she’s handled things by herself.”
Mollusky deployed to Iraq from 2007-2008 while assigned to the 3637th Maintenance Company. During that time, Michelle would carry a lot more of the responsibilities of raising their children.
"I grew up a military brat, my father retired as a Chief Warrant Officer (3) so a lot of it was normal for me,” said Michelle, his wife. "The biggest advice I can give is to communicate, even about the little things. It’s been a journey and we’ve both grown through it.”
Mollusky would also deploy to Kuwait in 1991, before meeting his wife.
As a family man and leader in the National Guard, Mollusky isn’t necessarily the strict, stern Command Sergeant Major that people often associate with the rank. Being a father with three children has helped teach him to be patient.
"I tell my kids that things take time,” said Mollusky. "My oldest son is 28 and he works for the Department of Labor. I tell him to be patient and you will be able to move up and excel. My oldest daughter is 23 and has special needs, so I have my wife to support me in helping her. I also have a 19-year old son, who is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. Things just take time.”
Although Mollusky will now have an opportunity to spend more time with his biological family, his National Guard family will miss his passion for his job and how much he cared for his Soldiers.
"I first met Command Sergeant Major Mollusky when I took command of the 108th Special Troops Battalion,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Johnson. "His passion for Soldier care was clear. He welcomed me with open arms and we immediately became a team. With over 30 years of experience, he brought a lot to the table as my Senior Enlisted Advisor. His long term relationships with Soldiers and families in our units gave him unique insights that as a commander, I didn’t have. His frank and candid approach when discussing our Soldiers was invaluable. The thing I’ll miss the most about him is his laugh and storytelling. Every drill, trip, and training event was filled with stories about his family and our Soldiers.”
Despite retiring from the Army, Mollusky’s values as a Soldier will continue to carry-over to his everyday life, even though he will no longer wear the uniform.
"I would encapsulate the Army values as simply doing the right thing,” said Mollusky. "As a leader, making sure that you’re looking out for your peers and subordinates. It’s so much more than making sure that Soldiers are in the right uniform for a formation. What I’ll always take away most from being with the STB is being around good people. I’ll remember the great Soldiers and the great job they do.”