Col. Sullins is a native of Tuskegee, AL born on the campus of Tuskegee Institute (University). According to his mother, he was a self directed child; curious about everything but fascinated about airplanes. Anytime an airplane passed overhead, he would stop and take notice as a baby.
At the age of three, he got his first flight with his Uncle, Bennie L. Davison. Unfortunately, the J-3 Cub they were in ground-looped upon landing, severely damaging the airplane. He and his uncle escaped unharmed but this only increased his appetite for flying.
At the age of nine, his dream of flying became a reality when he overheard Chief Charles Alfred Anderson telling someone about the need to teach youth to fly. Palmer took that moment to volunteer to be his son. In 1955 “Chief” Anderson, took him under his wing.
In order to earn money for flight time, he would wash and polish Chief’s Cessna 120 airplane. This was a two-day chore, which required the airplane to be ground taxied to a different location. Moton Field was a low volume airport with sod strips, like the days when the Tuskegee Airmen trained. Several memorable moments came out years later during a “Chief Roast.” One was when Palmer revealed that he once taxied Chief’s airplane a little too fast down the runway solo and the plane became airborne. Although Palmer was not aware of this prior to the event, Chief told everyone that he was watching from a distance but had every confidence in Palmer’s ability to fly. They remained best friends and were virtually inseparable until Chief’s death in 1996.
He attended Tuskegee Institute High School 1960 to 1964. High school was a stepping stone to fly. He used excuses to the Principal such as the school needing aerial photos or a bird’s eye view. He was asked to take aerial pictures for the 1964 year book. When most kids his age were still trying to determine where they were going, he knew where he was going. He met many of the original Tuskegee Airmen during these years and attended school with kids of those Airmen who remained and/or worked in Tuskegee after the war.
He attended Tuskegee Institute (University) 1964 to 1968. While there, he participated in ROTC. In those years, ROTC was mandatory for freshmen and sophomore students. He selected Air Force. He wanted to become a jet fighter pilot. After being encouraged by Airline representative, he decided to switch to Army ROTC. According to them at that time, Army pilots were more attractive for recruitment. The airline philosophy he was told about changed after that since he ended up flying primarily helicopters. He was granted a four year scholarship in swimming and also lettered in football which her served as swimming team captain of the swimming team in 1967 and 1968. He earned a BS Degree in Physical Education in 1968.
After completing Advanced ROTC, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army at Ft. Bragg, NC in July 1968. Prior to reporting for active duty, he was hired as an instructor in the Department of Physical Education, Head Swimming Coach and an Assistant Special Teams football Coach at Tuskegee Institute. The Department of Army granted a request for delay of entry which allowed him to participate in these careers.
He entered active duty at Ft. Eustis VA, 1969 and was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1970 during Rotary Wing Flight School. He was promoted to Captain in 1971 while serving in the Republic of South Vietnam and was an Aircraft Maintenance Officer (AMO) and test pilot. He flew over 300 combat support missions in CH-47s with B Company 228th Assault Support Battalion, First Calvary Division at Bear Cat, RVN (1970-71). Later in his tour, he was reassigned as 229th Combat Support Helicopter Battalion, First Calvary Division, Aircraft Maintenance Officer at Bien Hoa, RVN.
After returning stateside and serving at Sacramento Army Depot, CA, he left active duty to become a civilian pilot for Chevron Oil Company in New Orleans in 1975. His Louisiana National Guard career also began that year. He was promoted to Major in 1978, Lieutenant Colonel in 1991 and Colonel in 1996. His duties in the guard have included Commander 199th Aviation Detachment, Aircraft Maintenance Officer and acting Director of Material Section, 204th Area Support Group, Defense Movements Coordinator, Director of Command Logistics (DCL) and culminating with his appointment as Commander of 204th Air Traffic Services Group. While in Sacramento, he pursued a Master Degree in Public Administration.
Col. Sullins’ military awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Legion of Merit Medal, 13 Air Medals, National Defense Ribbon, RVN Campaign Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, Viet Nam Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, four Army Reserve Components Achievement Medals, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, three Louisiana Commendation Medals, Louisiana Longevity Ribbon with three Fleur-de-lis and the Master Army Aviator Badge.
He met Esperanza Kennedy in 1966. They were married on December 19, 1971 after returning from Viet Nam. COL Sullins has two sons, Mario Paul Smith (deceased) and together, Jonathan Christian Sullins.
Sullins has amassed over 24,000 flying hours and holds Airline Transport Ratings (ATP) in airplanes, seaplanes and helicopters. He is employed by X-Chem, Inc., Oilfield Chemicals as Chief Pilot and Oilfield Chemical Sales Engineer. He is a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and a former Reserve Deputy for the Orleans Parish (New Orleans) Reserve Deputy Association. He is a supporter of the Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program and personally mentored several youth.
Col. Sullins was elected President of Black Pilots of America, Inc. (BPA) in 2005 and held that position until January 2011. He served seven years as Treasurer of BPA prior to being elected President currently serves as Treasurer of New Orleans Golden Eagles Chapter while residing in Slidell, LA.
He was elected Vice Chairman of Friends of Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Inc. in 2008. After the Chairman position was vacated, he was elevated to Chairman.