July 10, 2016 –
FORT MEADE, Md., – Every time he sits with a Soldier over a meal, the first thing he asks is, “How are you?”
He doesn’t jump to discuss how the mission is going right away. He genuinely wants to know where his Soldiers are mentally and emotionally.
He asks about family, about their goals and dreams. By the time desert rolls around, he wants to know what he can do to help them.
It’s hard to imagine a man who originally had no desire to serve in the military leaving behind a two-star command as a major general with 12 years of total command time and 35 years of service.
After 18 months as the commanding general of the 200th Military Police Command, Maj. Gen. Phillip M. Churn, relinquished his post July 10 during a ceremony held at the McGlachlin Parade Field on Fort Meade, Maryland.
Looking back to his military beginning, Churn wasn’t always interested in being a Soldier. In high school, he dreamed of going to law school, becoming a lawyer and then going into politics.
All of that changed in college. He became interested in ROTC through his friends. After trying a few of its courses, he fell in love.
The leadership, the problem solving, and the camaraderie all excited him, he said. But what really sparked a fire in him were the words of Lou Cantu, his military science adviser, who was a senior noncommissioned officer.
“You’re a natural at this,” Cantu told him.
“And I believed him,” Churn said. “Because if you find something that you really, really enjoy, and you’re excited about, then you should do it, and this was it for me.”
Since then, Churn pursued his military career with veracity, dedicating his time and effort to develop himself and others as leaders.
Command Sgt. Maj. Craig D. Owens, the command sergeant major for the 200th MP Cmd., said that he really wishes Soldiers knew how much Churn cares for each of them individually.
“He lives and breathes military police,” Owens said. “The Soldiers should know the dedication and determination he has, and the lengths he has gone to for our Soldiers to have better training, have better facilities, to get better missions, to be recognized, and to be successful.”
Churn has been a commander at several levels including battalion, brigade and division.
“Being in command is just a matter of knowing the mission, holding people accountable, setting standards and completing the mission,” Churn said.
Each job in his career has prepared him for the next level of responsibility, he said. He is humbled by the opportunities he’s received, and admits it hasn’t been an easy path.
He remembers his time as a battalion commander at the 336th Military Police Battalion in Pittsburgh, when he hit a wall. On top of his responsibilities as commander, Churn was enrolled in the War College and traveled 42 weeks out of the year for his civilian job.
While he was at Bright Star, a multinational military exercise in Egypt, Churn told his sergeant major at the time, Dan Reynolds, that he was going to drop out of the War College. Exercising the same type of leadership that Churn had used on him throughout the their time together, Reynolds told Churn that he couldn’t.
“Sir, I forbid you,” he said. “Get in your room and do your work, period, end of story.”
And like a good, young lieutenant colonel, Churn listened to his sergeant major, did his work and completed the course. Ultimately, that pushed him forward in his career.
In 2014, Churn became the commanding general at the 200th Military Police Command. He accepted the position and quickly explained his “global all” vision to his command team.
“Part of my job as a leader, especially at this level, is to have a strategic vision for the organization, where the organization needs to move to and what it will look like in the future,” Churn said. “I wanted to make the command relevant into the future.”
One of the command’s various achievements is the partnership Churn helped establish with the Military District of Washington.
Soldiers from across the 200th MP Cmd. have been integrated with active duty military police at Fort Myers, Fort McNair and Henderson Hall, patrolling together and protecting distinguished officials side by side.
Churn said one of the best compliments he ever received was from the brigade commander for The Old Guard.
“He told me that there was no difference between the active duty Soldiers and the 200th Military Police Command Soldiers,” Churn said. “That shows the caliber of Soldiers we have in our command.”
The 200th Military Police Command has really embraced Churn’s vision, Owens said. The command is well-known throughout the active duty brotherhood for being a military police organization that can stand up and send troops all over the world at a moment’s notice.
Churn said he will always hold the command near and dear to his heart, and hopes to continue expanding the opportunities for the Soldiers.
“I had the best job in the world because I was the spokesperson for 13,000 Soldiers and highlighting their capabilities,” Churn said.
Moving forward, Churn will be serving as the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for reserve affairs in the Pentagon. There, he will serve as a voice for not only Army reserve Soldiers but also service members in the Air Force, Marine and Navy Reserve.