Still having fun after 28 years in uniform
October 31, 2012
One of the best ways to experience the Army is in the boots of an enlisted infantry Soldier.
Looking over the highlights of Command Sgt. Maj. Kyle Crump's career, it's obvious he could be called a military "jack of all trades," a Soldier who has fully experienced the career challenges and responsibilities the Army has to offer.
From Fort Benning, Ga., to Germany; from Korea to Fort Wainwright, Alaska; from Fort Hood, Texas, to Iraq, Crump has been all around the world in his Army career in roles that have tested his capabilities as an infantry Soldier and a leader of Soldiers. For 28 years, Crump has followed the infantry Soldier's journey, serving in every enlisted position from rifleman through all the ranks, including drill sergeant, ROTC instructor and brigade command sergeant major.
And that career journey won't be ending anytime soon.
"It doesn't matter the assignment, more than likely I will still be in this uniform long after I leave this assignment. They'll have to kick me out someday," the decorated Iraqi war veteran said.
"From the beginning, I took it one re-enlistment at a time. I wasn't much at looking at the big picture in those early years. Then, 12 years have gone by and I decide to go for 20. Then, 20 years came, and I was still having fun and here I am, really having fun eight years later."
For now, Crump is enjoying one of the most interesting leadership assignments of his career. Although the Garrison command sergeant major does not have many Soldiers under his supervision, he does help lead an organization of civilians committed to providing services in support of Team Redstone and its tenants' missions.
"This is a nice installation," he said. "I think we've got a great leadership team here, and I am glad to be part of that. Working with Redstone tenants and also out in the community with our community partners shows me another side of Army leadership."
Back in Springfield, Mass., in the mid-1980s, Crump was at a crossroads in his life. He had chosen two different paths to follow after high school -- one was to serve as a police officer and the other was to join the Army.
"I took the police test. But I didn't hear anything back from that," he said. "I really believed in that commercial 'Be All You Can Be' in the Army. No one thought I would do it, but I signed up. Once I got to basic training, the letter finally came that said I scored a 94 on the police test and I could go to the police academy. But by then I was on my way to being a Soldier."
Basic and Advanced Individual Training for infantry Soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga., offered the kind of challenge that Crump welcomed.
"It was great. They still had those real tough drill sergeants back then who got in your face a lot more than they do now," he said.
"I was in shape when I went to basic. I could run. I could accept the challenge. Everything just seemed exciting. I stuck with it and it was good."
After Fort Benning, Crump's entire platoon of 53 Soldiers were assigned together and stationed in Berlin, Germany, from 1984-87, where they patrolled "the wall" between west and east Germany, and were the last Soldiers to guard Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess, who died in 1987.
From those first years and throughout his career, Crump said his most rewarding assignments were those that involved mentoring young Soldiers. His next assignment took him to Fort McClellan, where he trained Soldiers in mapping and communications as part of the Basic Training Committee Group. Soon he was assigned to be a drill sergeant.
"It was rewarding to turn those young kids into Soldiers. You could see the huge strides they made as they went from feeling fear to being motivated Soldiers. They grow up at basic and turn into really good Soldiers," Crump said.
While at Fort McClellan, Crump also met his wife, Kimberly, who was also a Soldier. She eventually left the Army, the two got married and now have three grown children.
"I've always had super support from my family," Crump said. "I don't think I would still be doing what I'm doing today if it wasn't for my family. My parents, my brothers, my friends and my mentors, my wife -- they've all had an impact on me that has allowed me to be where I am today."
His experience in training and mentoring Soldiers that he first gained at Fort McClellan has followed Crump throughout his career. His role as a trainer continued in Hohenfels, Germany, where he was assigned in 1988 to the Combat Maneuver Training Center, 7th Army Training Command.
"We did a lot of field training where we were dressed up as bad guys and we had to fight the good guys. We had our own special uniforms and ranks and we fought against units that came in for training," Crump said.
From there, Crump took on a series of unit leadership positions, all focused on preparing Soldiers for combat. He served with units at Fort Drum, N.Y.; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort Benning; Camp Casey, Korea; and Fort Wainwright. Other assignments had him serving as a ROTC instructor at the University of California in Santa Barbara and as the Scorpion team command sergeant major at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
"I was training Soldiers, but I was also learning how to lead Soldiers. In Hawaii, I was a platoon sergeant and then the battalion S3 NCOIC who planned training events. While I was there I learned how things run at the battalion level. While at the University of California, I started taking online college courses to get my degree," said the recent magna cum laude business administration graduate from the University of Trident in Cypress, Calif.
"At the National Training Center, I was involved in mentoring and evaluating Soldiers on the basic techniques and procedures during simulated situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. That experience made me capable of being a battalion command sergeant major in combat. I had some good information in my tool kit to take with me on a deployment."
In 2008-09, while at Fort Wainwright, Crump deployed with the 3-21 Infantry Stryker Battalion to Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was the battalion command sergeant major at Forward Operating Base Normandy, located on the edge of Muqdadiyah and the Diyala River Valley.
"We had our own FOB with 1,800 military and civilian," Crump said. "The Operations S3 sergeant major stayed at the FOB and ran it just like an installation garrison, with responsibility for the airstrips, chow hall, PX, fuel trucks and anything else supporting the FOB's Soldiers.
"I went out in theater with the battalion commander, and participated in engagements and missions. We went to the battlefield to check on the troops."
Crump was most proud of the way Soldiers conducted those missions and for the work he did to help bring all those Soldiers home.
"Even though we did have some injuries and loss of limbs, we didn't lose not one Soldier. All our Soldiers came home, and that was awesome," Crump said.
"Towards the last four months of our deployment, we started turning things over to the Iraqis. On missions, they would take the lead and we would follow them. We told our Soldiers over and over again to not get complacent, that it only takes a second for something to go wrong, that it's not over until it's over. We were really good at repeating that message over and over again."
Crump's most recent assignment was serving as the brigade command sergeant major for the Warrior Transition Brigade at Fort Hood.
"That was a very rewarding time. It's really great to see a wounded Soldier go from wounded in combat to back on his or her feet so they could either transition out of the Army or be found fit for duty," he said.
The largest warrior transition brigade in the Army, the Fort Hood unit worked with Soldiers wounded in war or in accidents, and Soldiers with either physical injuries, or with the more complicated prognosis of illness or post traumatic stress disorder. Besides ensuring they received the proper medical care, the brigade also provided wounded Soldiers with training for transitioning out of the Army, including resume writing, budgeting and interviewing.
"It was a challenging job that required me to be available 24/7. I really felt like I was helping to make a difference because the Army has an obligation to help these Soldiers get the medical care and treatment they need, and the transitioning skills they need if they are leaving the Army," Crump said.
"The Army is getting better and better at taking care of these wounded Soldiers."
Now at Redstone for about a month, Crump is getting used to going from an installation of 40,000-plus Soldiers to one that's quite the opposite. Even with the small number of Soldiers at Redstone, Crump is determined to find ways to bring unity and cohesiveness to the installation's enlisted ranks. Toward that end, he is planning an NCO Call for Nov. 15 at 4:30 p.m. at the Firehouse Pub.
"We need to get together and get to know each other and socialize. It's also part of mentoring the younger Soldiers," he said.
Although he has the honors -- a Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal (sixth award), memberships in the Sgt. Morales and the Sgt. Audie Murphy clubs, and the Order of St. Maurice -- that are earned by long-term dedicated Soldiers and combat heroes, it's the relationships with Soldiers and civilians, and the chance to make a difference that Crump has found most rewarding in his Army experience.
"All through my career, I've loved being with other Soldiers and being an infantryman. I've loved the team work and the opportunities to lead. I like building good teams," he said. "I loved training in the field. That was great. You just can't beat that. And there's no way I would have all the friends I have if it hadn't been for the Army."