South Missouri Chapter of VHPA

Marine Aviator


Lewis K. Phillips Bio

I began voluntary military service my senior year in high school, dropping out at the age of seventeen. In December, 1959, I became an E-1 at the Great Lakes Naval Basic Training Center. In March of 1960, I was assigned to the Naval Air Technical Training Unit (NATTU) at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey. There I completed Navy meteorologist, surface and upper air observer, A and C schools. At that time, the blimp squadron was still active.

In December of 1960, I reported for duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GITMO) assigned to the 1st Lieutenants Division where, in addition to my duties, I completed my GED and began taking my first college level courses. Later, I was assigned to the McCalla Field Weather Observation Office. I was involuntarily assigned, as an additional duty, I was assigned to the Naval Emergency Ground Defense Force (NEGDEF) as a BAR man – and I don’t mean I worked as a mess orderly.  We were attached to and trained by the Marine cadre stationed at GITMO. The training was similar to Marine Basic Training. I carried the Browning Automatic Rifle which weighed over 40 pounds. At that time I weighed 144 pounds. I was at  GITMO during the Bay of Pigs invasion, the missile crisis, and President Kennedy’s assassination, all of which required extended deployment of the NEGDEF However, I was fortunate enough to be held back from field deployment during the missile crisis due to the need for weather briefings and flight plan clearances. During this period in time I worked 44 hours straight without leaving the hangar or sleeping. Immediately thereafter I applied for MARCAD and NAVCAD flight schools, but was turned down because I was married and didn’t have a college degree.

In June of 1963, I returned to CONUS with 30+ months of overseas duty and was assigned to NAS Norfolk. After a short period, I completed my obligation to the Navy as an E-5 and returned to civilian life just prior to my 21st birthday.

I still wanted to fly, and in June of 1965, I saw a recruitment poster at the post office for the US Army WORWAC flight training program. I applied. I took the physical exam, miscellaneous tests and FAST tests and scored remarkably high. I was then told it was just a matter of waiting for the next class openning. After eight months, the recruiting station told me there was no record of me ever applying for flight school. So, I did everything again and finally reported to Fort Polk for U.S. Army Basic Training in December, 1966 as an E-3, my third trip through basic. Talk about prestige.

Naval Aviator

Air Force Aviator


South Missouri Chapter of VHPA

Lewis K. Phillips

Coast Guard Aviator

Air America

After graduation from basic training, I arrived at Fort Wolters in March of 1967 enrolled in Class 67-19, but was held back in “pre-flight” to begin flight training in Class 67-21 and graduated at Fort Rucker was a Wobbly One in December, 1967.

At graduation I received orders assigning me to the 498th Air Ambulance Company, 44th Medical Brigade, Lane Field, An Son, Vietnam. Before departing CONUS I attended the advanced first aid course (AMEDS) at Fort Sam Houston, then, straight to Vietnam, arriving just in time for Tet of 1968. I received all five battle stars. Before my tour was complete I was promoted to CW2. During that year an opportunity to apply for a direct commission to 2nd Lt was offered to me. But I turned it down because, having flown many medical evacuations all over Vietnam, I had seen enough infantry 2nd lieutenants on a professional basis and wasn’t impressed with their career patterns.

After my tour I returned to Fort Rucker. It was now February of 1968 and I was very determined to become a much more competent IFR pilot. I completed the contact and instrument instructor courses and was assigned to RWQC at Lowe Field.  At this point another opportunity arose to apply for direct commission to captain in the Transportation Corps. I applied but only received 1st lieutenant, which I accepted in 1969. I completed the Rotary Wing Examiner’s Course and CH-47 transition. Just when I thought things were rolling along well I was involved in a serious motorcycle accident and was grounded for six months before regaining flight status.

At this point I was promoted to captain and I asked TC Branch for fixed wing transition and/or degree completion. They turned me down.

Later in 1971, I received orders for deployment to Korea with Transportation Officer’s Basic Course, Aviation Maintenance Officer’s Course, and CH-47 test pilot’s course at Fort Eustis en route. I arrived in Korea in June of 1972 assigned to the 271st Aviation Company, KORSCOM Aviation Battalion slotted to become a platoon leader. However, the battalion commander picked me to be his S-4 Aviation Maintenance officer, and that became my new job. During that assignment, I managed to raid the Camp Carrol Army Supply Depot for much needed parts and supplies, resulting in significant reductions in the battalion’s NORS rate. I also raided the war-time contingent stocks at Supply Point Bravo in Seoul for otherwise unavailable 23699 turbine engine oil to keep our Hueys flying. This, of course, is just idle boasting and can never be proven – ‘cause I didn’t leave any evidence behind, so they can’t prove it and I’ll never be taken alive.’ I also made the Army Times, by leaging a 50 mile, three day cross-country march in the mountains of central South Korea supporting the new concept of “Adventure Training”. It was a great tour. Again, I asked TC Branch for fixed wing transition and/or degree completion. They turned me down.

In July of 1973 I returned to CONUS and attended the TC Advanced Course and OH-58 transition. I encountered a considerable delay in starting the advanced course due to the CO of the school brigade taking issue with the fact that I was cohabitating with my future wife while neither of us had quite managed to complete our respective divorces. A copy of this investigation was placed in my permanent records. At the time of this writing my wife and I have been together for 39 years, married for 36 years. We have two, very talented and very successful daughters and two equally wonderful granddaughters.

I completed the OH-58 transition and the college requirements for an associate degree in real estate finance. But I wanted to complete a four year degree and get fixed wing rated. While visiting TC Branch in Washington, the assignments officer it became apparent that branch was not going to facilitate my goals, and I would have to obtain them on my own if I wanted to reach them.

Orders for assignment to the 101st Air Mobile Division, 5th Transportation Battalion, DISCOM were received in early 1975. By February 1975, I had arrived at Fort Campbell and was assigned by the battalion commander to organize a flight standards section to provide instructor pilots and instrument flight examiner capabilities to the battalion, as well as a flight operations section. During this assignment, I enrolled in Embry-Riddle’s Aeronautical University on-post campus college program and carried an 18 hour semester schedule in addition to my duty assignment responsibilities. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree, finally reaching one of my long-time goals.

I departed Fort Campbell in February, 1978 for an accompanied, two year assignment as Chief of 8th Army Flight Standards C3/J3, 17th Aviation Group, Yongsan, Korea, a major’s slot , attending Supply Management Course at Fort Lee en route. The 8th Army flight standards section consisted of four, sometimes five, CW4 SIPs (the new CW5 pay grade had not yet been invented), one clerk and myself. We wrote and revised 8th Army Aviation specific regulations including procedures for flights near hostile borders, and directed the planning, development, and implementation of the flight corridor system around Seoul, including the day and night check points. Subsequently, I staffed the proposal through all major headquarter elements, including several Korean Ministries who incorporated parts of those procedures into their civilian aviation regulations.

During this tour I assisted in 8th Army IG inspections and maintained liaison with World Wide Standards Section at Fort Rucker, coordinating World Wide Standards Inspection within the 8th Army. While in this assignment, 17th Aviation Group received “Best Aviation Unit in the Army” award in 1978 and 1979, thanks in part to the efforts and writing skills of our 8th Army Safety Officer, CW3 Jim Greer. I departed Korea in December, 1980 and arrived at Fort Leonard Wood where I completed my career in the Army and retired.

After retirement, I continued federal service with the Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis as an aviation specialist involved in the FLIP program, management and production. In time, the Defense Mapping Agency, who owned the military satellites, changed its name to The National Geospacial Intelligence Agency. After twenty years of interesting service, I retired again in 2004 with a combined total of over 43 years of federal service.

I have been rewarded with these good years of retirement to enjoy my health, my beautiful wife and great family. After all I have done in my life including meeting the goals I had set for myself, I found that nothing was as rewarding to me as having a great family with lots of grandkids.

Enjoy life, it goes by very fast. Great Lakes Naval Training Center seems like yesterday.

Army Aviator