By SUSANNE KAPPLER, Fort Jackson LeaderJuly 2, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Culbertson has been on the job for only one month, but he has a clear picture of what he wants to achieve.
"I'm an advocate of standards and discipline. If I had to (pick) one single area in which I would want to make the most impact, it would definitely have to be the standards of the installation," he said. "Fort Jackson is the premier Basic Combat Training Center of Excellence. And when someone comes on Fort Jackson, that's the picture they should see. That should be the first positive impression that someone gets of Fort Jackson and, for the most part, of the Army.
"We have a whole lot of Soldiers who are coming from what I call the 'great American public.' They have expectations of Fort Jackson and of the Basic Combat Training Center of Excellence. And somehow, some way, we have to be able to satisfy that expectation."
Culbertson explained that in order to achieve those goals, everyone involved needs to take pride and ownership in their work.
"In order for Fort Jackson to be successful, it takes a collective effort from everybody," he said. "A collective effort from everybody pitching in to do their small piece is what will allow this puzzle to come together and be a pretty picture."
Culbertson's career in the Army began in 1983 when a friend of his decided to enlist. Culbertson, who had planned to attend college on a basketball scholarship, accompanied his friend to the recruiting office and walked out a new recruit himself.
"I think I was a disciplined kid and young adult," he said. "So I figured the Army wouldn't be too tough or too difficult for me."
Culbertson's first assignment was to Korea, which he said was somewhat of a culture shock for him.
"Those experiences I took back to Hometown, USA and to other installations that I went to," he said. "I started appreciating the Army, the United States and the things that we have that not a lot of other nations have."
With his promotion to sergeant in 1986, Culbertson embraced the challenge of being a noncommissioned officer.
"Ever since then .... I've tried to develop and come up with the right strategy to be a leader," he said.
He said he sees himself as a leader who likes to give clear directives, but also allows his Soldiers the latitude to make decisions.
"If (the Soldiers) know exactly what the expectations are and what the end result is supposed to be and you give them left and right lanes - more times than not, they'll drive down the right side of the road," he said.
He admits, though, that the responsibility of leadership is not without challenges.
"Once you get to a certain level in your career ... there always has to be a balance between one, work, two, family life and three, your spiritual and religious preference," he said. "That's one of my challenges as a leader, trying to have the right mix between church and family and job. It's something that I struggle with. And I don't want to not give one part the attention it needs, because if you do, it will show pretty quickly."
Culbertson's first chance to demonstrate his leadership skills on Fort Jackson came in 1995, when he became a drill sergeant with the 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. He later came back to Columbia as a recruiter. While working as a recruiter, Culbertson was selected for promotion to master sergeant.
"I told my battalion sergeant major that I wanted to be a first sergeant on Fort Jackson," he recalled.
Culbertson was released from his recruiting obligation and became a first sergeant in the 1st Training Brigade, which at the time was commanded by Col. Kevin Shwedo, now Fort Jackson's deputy commanding officer. Culbertson credits Shwedo with improving his leadership skills.
"His actions have really showed me and taught me how to be an effective leader in the IET environment," he said.
Culbertson said that being familiar with the IET mission will help him in his current position.
"Having background knowledge of the units that are on this installation will give me a better understanding of how I can go out and support the organizations," he said.