REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Tradition ruled the day Sept. 26 when Command Sgt. Maj. Kyle Crump passed on the noncommissioned officers sword that marked a change of responsibility within the Garrison's leadership ranks.
But, true to form, Crump sprinkled in a few jokes to keep the tradition interesting. As the Garrison's command sergeant major for the past two years, Crump has been known as a enthusiastic, outgoing and boisterous senior enlisted NCO who cared about the concerns of Team Redstone employees and Soldiers, and who was focused on building teams both on the installation and within the local community.
Crump retired from 31 years of military service Friday in a change of responsibility ceremony at Bob Jones Auditorium that introduced the Garrison's new senior NCO -- Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Lehtonen II.
In his comments, Crump got a laugh from the audience when he recounted his first few weeks working with Garrison commander Col. Bill Marks, who assumed his command role about a year after Crump came to the Garrison.
"You are a true professional," Crump told Marks."You really did make Team Redstone into the best installation on the planet. I had been here a year and you did that in two weeks!"
Crump's reference was to Marks' habit of calling Redstone Arsenal "the best installation on the planet" whenever he is introduced to an audience. Marks' first time to coin the phrase was on a video teleconference call with Installation Management Command leadership in his first two weeks of command.
"I said not to do that. And there he went and did it," Crump said, to the laughter of the audience.
"But it turned out to be a real morale booster for the garrison command teams because now they all call in to the VTC with something like that."
Marks, who officiated over the ceremony, called Crump "an outstanding ambassador and spokesman for the Garrison and Team Redstone."
Crump brought his "innate ability to focus on critical programs vital to taking care of Soldiers and the workforce" with him to Redstone, where he was involved in a number of key programs, Marks said.
Those programs include the Noncommissioned Officer Development Program, the NCO Calls at the Firehouse Pub, weekly Newcomers Briefings, Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers and Redstone's annual JROTC Day. He also served as chairman of the physical fitness working group on Redstone's Community Health Promotion Council, was involved with critical Garrison services including force protection and installation access, worked to maintain standards for Commissary baggers, and was an active member of Redstone's Sergeants Major Association and the executive committee of the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.
"He has also been the very popular face of our IceBox program in the Redstone Rocket that highlights the Garrison response to employee questions about Redstone services," Marks said.
"He has worked closely beside me in implementing Garrison services for our 70-plus tenants and has also gladly taken on the additional role of serving as the command sergeant major to our senior commander, Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, who has relied on his support at Team Redstone events."
But, above all else, it was the encouraging and supportive personality that Crump brought to the Garrison team that employees will remember the most.
"His superior knowledge, positive can-do attitude and genuine care for the welfare of Soldiers, DA civilians and family members fostered teamwork and relationships across Team Redstone and the Tennessee Valley," Marks said.
In response to Marks' comments, Crump said, only partly in jest, "I've been a Soldier at the best installation on the planet!" He thanked God, his family and friends, Army leaders and his mentors for his successes.
"If you had asked me a year ago if I was going to retire, I would have said, 'No!' But it was the candid coaching of my inner self that said, 'All this isn't about you. It's about paying respect to your profession, to those who know you, to those you've served with, to those who have developed you and mentored you, to those who you have mentored.'"
He listened to the lessons his mother Hazel taught him about respect and honesty, and of being a good steward. And he knew it was time to retire and focus on his family, which has grown with the addition of a son-in-law, and will expand with the addition of two grandbabies in the spring.
Crump thanked the family members in the audience -- his mother, his daughter and son-in-law, his two sons and his nephew. But he saved the most important person -- wife Kimberly -- for last.
"You are my battle buddy, my pride and joy," he said. "You held down these kids while I was away. … You were there and raised them well."
Crump also thanked the Garrison workforce "for all the support, and hard work and dedication," and he thanked retired Col. John Hamilton, who was the Garrison commander when Crump came to Redstone.
"Thanks for bringing me in as an infantry guy. Coming into Redstone Arsenal kind of hit me hard. I didn't have a clue what was going on. But after two staff meetings, I caught on real quick because he (Hamilton) spits it out real smooth," he said.
And he thanked Garrison deputy commander Curtis Clark for "showing me the day to day business of the Garrison" and Marks for being a "great battle buddy. … Thank you for letting me do my job and to do the things command sergeant majors do. I couldn't think of a better commander to end my career with." He promised Marks he would work on making hunting a hobby and on his golf swing.
To the incoming command sergeant major, Crump said, in all seriousness, "This is the best installation on the planet. You've been around a lot of places, but this is different. We are unique. You couldn't ask for a better place to be."
Lehtonen comes to the Garrison from an assignment as the brigade command sergeant major for the 2nd Armed Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, which recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. The Redstone Garrison assignment returns him to garrison command as he served as the command sergeant major for the garrison in Brussels, Belgium, from 2010-12.
He thanked Team Redstone for the warm welcome "to the greatest installation on the planet" and thanked the Installation Management Command for their "special trust and confidence in my patriotism, in my dedication and in my leadership ability. I promise I'll do my very best to live up to the expectations of this position."