He has a new job title, but it’s not the first time Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Gilpin has called Fort Stewart home. In fact, when he took over as the 3rd Infantry Division’s command sergeant major in early April, Gilpin began his fifth tour at Fort Stewart.
Gilpin, who joined the Army in 1986 as an infantryman, first came to Fort Stewart in 1990. He soon was deployed with the 24th Infantry Division for Operation Desert Storm. He served with the 24th ID for three years, left and then returned in 1996, assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division. Gilpin served in ever-increasing levels of responsibility, leaving Stewart in 1999 for a one-year tour in Korea, then coming back in 2000.
He then left for the Sergeants Major Academy in 2003, returning to Stewart from 2004 until 2009. When he returned this year, he began his fifth tour at Fort Stewart.
“I was choosing Fort Stewart each time,” Gilpin said, explaining that his wife really loved the area when they came here for his first assignment. “This is where we wanted to raise a family. I honestly, really like this unit, too. I’m proud to be associated with the 3rd Infantry Division.”
In addition to a combat tour for Desert Storm and assignment in Korea, Gilpin served three combat tours in Iraq and Operation Destiny Guardian in Kosovo. He’s also made three trips to Afghanistan, but not as a combat deployment. The Ranger-qualified senior enlisted leader has a bachelor’s degree in management and administration and a master’s degree in teaching.
Gilpin said of all his duty assignments and positions, he looks back on his assignment as battalion command sergeant major for the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment at Stewart as his most memorable. He said he is proud to have served with and helped lead and train the soldiers in that regiment.
Throughout his 28-year military career, through all his deployments and reassignments, Gilpin said he’s always had his wife’s support.
“My wife and I were high-school sweethearts,” he said, noting they’re from Jamaica. “We had 12 years together as a couple before we started a family. Separation hasn’t had a negative impact for us. It has been harder for our children, but still separation hasn’t impacted the family. We enjoy quality time whenever I’m with my family.”
Gilpin said he believes most soldiers come in the Army to be soldiers. However, until they join and find out what it really means to be a soldier, they don’t know what to expect. Gilpin said being a soldier is not a job but a profession. He stressed that every soldiers must hold to the Army’s core values.
He said a good noncommissioned officer always puts his or her soldiers first. Gilpin said a good NCO is a professional who trains and cares for his or her soldiers “24/7.” A good leader is one who leads by example, regardless who’s around to see him, he added.
Gilpin acknowledged that NCO-development training has changed a lot during the years. Though it’s shorter than the old Primary Leadership Development Course, he said today’s Warriors Leaders Course does get the right subjects taught, explaining the Army simply can’t cover everything in a basic-level leadership course. It does prepare “young sergeants to be sergeants,” he said.
“When I was a young sergeant, it was the experience I got on the job that was most valuable,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to assign them in critical jobs.”
In addition to WLC and senior NCO schools, Gilpin said the 3rd ID has numerous courses and classes for developing specific skills. He said the division also supports each NCO’s career development by encouraging off-post training like Ranger School. He said his goal as division command sergeant major is to see that every soldier in the Marne Division trains to a level that he or she gets better at his job every day.
Although Gilpin is making no plans to retire, he said when he does leave the Army, he will belong totally to his wife. She will decide what she wants him to do, which he expects will include spending more time with his family.