Navy is in Vice Adm. Philip H. Cullom’s DNA
By DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org August 6, 2012 10:04PM
Vice Adm. Philip H. Cullom, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, speaks with family and friends of sailors aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard in January. | U.S. Navy photo
Chicago Navy Week
Event runs in conjunction with the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. Activities include ship visits, namesake crew visit, Navy band performances, Blue Angels, Leap Frogs and Navy Simulator.
For information on dates, times and locations, visit ourflagwasstillthere.org/events/chicago-il/94-public/partners-places-and-events/events/341-citywebsite-chicago.html
Updated: September 8, 2012 6:03AM
How does a kid from the landlocked suburbs of Chicago end up a vice admiral in the U.S. Navy?
One step, one ship, one fleet at a time.
Flossmoor native Philip Hart Cullom, vice admiral and deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, says when he left for the Naval Academy in 1975, he figured he’d put in five years and then head back to Chicago.
“But there’s something about the Navy. The more you do, the more it gets into your blood, into your DNA,” Cullom said during a phone interview from his post in Washington, D.C. “It’s a profession, not a job.”
Cullom, a graduate of Arcadia Elementary School and Homewood-Flossmoor High School, will return to the Windy City for Chicago Navy Week, Aug. 13 to 20. The event will feature family-friendly activities, including ship tours and a special naval commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. The week culminates in the annual Chicago Air and Water Show.
Most people don’t know that sailors played a big role in the War of 1812. Battles were fought and sailors killed all over the world during the conflict. At the time, the U.S.S. Constitution was the fastest ship in the world.
Ingenuity was and continues to be America’s strength, Cullom said. “We have the finest sailors today. It’s amazing how bright and dedicated they are.”
Cullom said he is looking forward to coming back to his hometown. He misses the genuine openness and generosity of its people and, of course, the pizza.
More important, he said, is his mission to help Midwesterners in particular understand the multiple roles the Navy has played throughout history in terms of protecting travel, trade and human rights and how that mission is carried out today.
“Most people don’t realize that America is an island nation,” Cullom said. “Sea trade connects us.”
A helping hand in times of disaster and distress, Cullom said, the Navy is also a striking hand when threats to our national security arise.
“We are America’s away team. We are deployed 24/7, 365 days a year all around the world,” Cullom said.
Sailors not only patrol waterways and assist during disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the recent tsunami in Japan, they fight alongside Marines on the ground in Afghanistan, much the way they did in Kosovo and Iraq.
“What people probably don’t know about the Navy is that we’re still very active in fighting wars,” he said.
It’s also at the forefront of alternative fuel research.
Keeping a fleet of 156 ships deployed all over the world requires lots of energy, Cullom said. “We are going to be wedded to liquid fuel for a long time.”
The volatility of that market has led the Navy to become more efficient and spartan in its use of fuel, he said. It has also compelled the military branch to explore alternative fuels.
“We are turning destroyer ships into Priuses,” he said. The Navy recently performed an exercise in the Pacific in which five ships of a carrier strike group were fueled by alternative fuels.
Growing up, he was intrigued by his uncle William Hart’s stories about serving in the Coast Guard during World War II. He also befriended Capt. John Day, a Blue and Gold Officer who lives in Flossmoor. Day inspired him to consider the Navy.
Cullom earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the academy and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard.
He has served at sea aboard numerous ships, deploying to the Mediterranean, Adriatic and North Sea. He has participated in counter-narcotics patrols as well as Operation Desert Storm and Southern Watch. He also served as combat commander for the first Expeditionary Strike Group supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
In addition, he has served as White House fellow to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and head of Officer Programs and Placement for all surface nuclear trained officers.
Among his many commendations are two Defense Superior Service Medals and six Legion of Merit awards.
Today, Cullom is married and has twin 3-year-old daughters.
He’s held many positions and assumed many responsibilities as an officer but among the most important, he said, is the safety of America’s approximately 321,000 sailors on active duty.
“Every sailor is somebody’s husband or wife, son or daughter, sister or brother, father or mother,” he said. “Those families rely on us to make sure their loved ones come home.”