- “I actually enlisted on my 17th birthday,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Sellars, “I was an artilleryman in a rocket unit in Brockton … that was 1974.”
Thirty-seven years later; as he stands on the historic Salem Common with Soldiers and Airmen from every major command in the Massachusetts National Guard, on Sept. 10, 2011, where the “First Muster” of the Army National Guard took place in 1637, Sellars is looking at the beginning of the end of his service as a uniformed member of the Massachusetts National Guard.
“When you look back at a career … from this end,” said Sellars,” It has greater meaning … all of those people who took the time to mentor you, to help you, to keep you on a path of success.”
All that mentoring, which began with a 17-year old private following a “path of success” has led to this point, the retirement ceremony of Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Sellars, commander of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and of Joint Force Headquarters-Massachusetts.
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, commander, Massachusetts Air National Guard was the presiding officer and provided keynote remarks: “The Massachusetts Air National Guard and Army National Guard join the City of Salem this day to honor the retirement of Thomas J. Sellars.” Rice said. Brig. Gen. Sellars will be retiring on this historic ground were America’s National Guard Heritage can be traced back 375 years to the governor’s proclamation to form three militia regiments to defend the Massachusetts Bay Colony. “I appropriately wear my blues in deep respect of years of service and I tip my hat and bow to you General Sellars for your selfless dedication to duty,” he said.
Sellars was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1977 through the Officer Candidate School at the Massachusetts State Military Academy. Prior to receiving his commission as an officer, Sellars served as an enlisted Soldier of the 1st Battalion 241st (Honest John Rocket) Field Artillery Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
As one of the few general officers who enlisted as a Soldier and promoted through the enlisted ranks to sergeant, Sellars rose through the officer ranks from second lieutenant to brigadier general.
“I had a lot of NCO’s (noncommissioned officers) pushing me to become an officer … apparently they saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” said Sellars, “It is the contribution of many people that make you successful in the military, not anything that one single individual does.”
Sellars assumed the duties of commander, Massachusetts Army National Guard in March 2007. He is responsible for the training of all Army National Guard Soldiers and units in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as their preparedness to respond to civil operations and deployment to assume the duties of their wartime mission. Sellars also serves as the commander of Joint Force Headquarters, Massachusetts National Guard where he is responsible for more than 8,000 Soldiers and Airmen.
Sellars is known for placing emphasis on taking care of Soldiers and Airmen. As the top enlisted Soldier in the Massachusetts National Guard, State Command Sgt. Maj. David Costa worked closely with Sellars. "I believe that General Sellars’ affect on Soldiers can be summed up in two words: “Selfless service,” he said. "They are inspired by his compassion and caring for the Soldiers and their families while ensuring the mission always gets accomplished.”
Sellars comes from a family of three generations of Massachusetts National Guardsmen; his father, three uncles, and brother have all served in the Guard. He decided to become an officer when he decided to make a career in the Guard; he also had a bit of help from his fellow Soldiers.
“This is a historic day for the Massachusetts National Guard. Brig. Gen. Sellars will be retiring on the weekend of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 after serving nearly four decades of military service to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and our Nation. He is a true Patriot and his presence and leadership will be greatly missed by us all. On behalf of The Adjutant General of Massachusetts, Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, and all the Soldiers and Airmen in Massachusetts National Guard…I thank you General Sellars…I thank you Nancy...and your family for your selfless service,” Rice said.
Sellars said his Soldiers are what he would miss the most. "The camaraderie, the time with them, whether it's in the field training or on the parade field like this, it will be sorely missed," he said.
Sellars will continue to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the military division as the assistant adjutant general/executive officer of the Massachusetts National Guard.
Sellars lives in Randolph, Mass., with his wife Nancy and has one son, Jason, a current member of the Massachusetts National Guard. Jason is deployed in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.