The incoming command sergeant major of the Army Reserve's 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), based here, assumed responsibility for his formation at a March 20 ceremony.
Relationships are key to successful leadership, said Command Sergeant Major Tully J. Culp, who joined the Army in 1993, and first served as a cannon crew member, or 13 Bravo, 155 millimeter howitzers, either self-propelled or towed.
"It's all about relationships," Culp said. "It boils down to relationships and your ability to create them where they don't exist, and to nurture them where they do."
Unlike in the civilian world, the Army gives people chances to make up for mistakes, rather than just throwing them away, but you cannot do that without having those relationships, he said.
"We also value each team member, and the fact that even if you're meant to be a cannon crew member, if I need you to do this job instead, then that's what you'll do for our team to be successful," said the native of Decatur, Illinois, who now lives in Danville, Indiana.
"Where I come into that picture is letting each of our team members know that you have value," he said. Yeah, you might not like me all the time, but never will you be doing something that I would never not do myself."
The command sergeant major said he still relies on the early lessons he learned when he was a young artillery Soldier.
"I really credit my ability to look past the discomforts of things whenever you're in the field, back to those artillery days," he said.
"As a cannon crew member, PV1, you're the guy running powder all the time," Culp said. "You're the guy that's--whenever an advance party goes out to find a new position for the gun to move to, you're that guy that's getting up at 2 a.m., and in the truck at 2:30 and standing in the middle of the field, waiting for the howitzer to come in to get ready, to lay in safe."
In a way, the command sergeant major said he is still that private running for powder.
"If I could connect those dots at all, I would say it's having that discipline to know these are the things that need to get done, no matter what the circumstances are," he said.
"It's very easy for us on a day, for example, whenever it's rainy and cool outside to say we don't want to take that ACFT that we have on the training schedule. 'Oh, it's raining. Oh, it's too cold. Oh, there's a little bit of wind,' but I knowing that we had planned to do this event to get it done in order to meet those objectives, those really simple objectives."
Culp said you cannot ignore the basics.
"I call them conditions of employment, right? We have to be medically fit. We have to be all of these things fit, physically fit, and those are conditions of employment," he said.
"I would say how my artillery days, how they correspond to me today, are just that discipline and realizing that we have a job to do, and we have to get it done," he said.
As he becomes the top NCO, Culp said the big challenge ahead is working through the complications created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What's my big challenge? That COVID hangover, and part of that COVID hangover is that ACFT and the physical fitness of our soldiers," he said.
Swanson chose Culp after interviewing other candidates
Culp said he was honored to be among the candidates for 310th ESC command sergeant major position, and up until the phone call from Brig. Gen. Justin M. Swanson, the 310th ESC commanding general, he thought he was not selected.
"Funny enough, we played phone tag for a couple of days," said Culp. "I had my interview with General Swanson, which, by the way, he doesn't have to do interviews. If he knows the candidate that he wants, then he can just elect to look at the slate that comes before him."
Swanson conducted the interview with him on a Monday, and told Culp he wanted to make his decision by that Friday, however, Swanson contacted Culp the very next day, he said.
"In my mind, I'm thinking, he's calling me back because I'm not the one. This is just a formality," he said. "He's doing the kind thing to say: 'Hey, appreciate you interviewing, but sorry. You're not the one.'"
Culp said he had already rationalized why he did not get the nod.
"I mean, a man or woman that is in that type of position, we have to realize, they've been around for a while. They know lots of sergeants major. They've had battle buddies before in the past that, whenever they get those jobs, they're like: 'Hey, you know, that command sergeant major was somebody that I had a lot of success with.'"
In the end, the general has to feel right about his command sergeant major as his partner, he said.
"It all boils down to comfort, right? If I'm the new guy in an anomaly, then you don't know who you're competing against, so again, I was like: 'Oh, that was probably a formality. So he's just calling me to let me know I didn't make it. That's why he didn't call me back tonight,' because you know, you're like waiting for the cell phone to ring," said the 310th ESC's top NCO, who earned his bachelor's degree from Oakland City University and his MBA from Anderson University.
To Culp's surprise Swanson thanked him for the interview and offered him the position of the command sergeant major, he said.
"I'm not usually at a loss for words, but I'm like: 'Yes! I was honored to be selected,'" the command sergeant major said.
"I knew that there were multiple packets, and greater than probably 10, that had applied for the position. I was flabbergasted and just honored to be selected.