Sailor of the Year award goes to local

Achievements, hard work recognized

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First Class Petty Officer Jason Phillips, formally of Craig, has been awarded the Sailor of the Year Award.

The Army Times Publishing Company annually presents the Sailor of the Year Award to an outstanding sailor. Criteria considered in the award include heroism, patriotism and selfless service to country. Servicemen nominate and vote for candidates for the award.

Getting Phillips to talk about himself is like pulling teeth. He'll talk about his men, wife and son, using deliberative words of praise, but he's more reserved when speaking about himself. And maybe that is part of the reason he received the award.

In his own words, the Sailor of the Year Award recognizes "hard work and achievements." He figures he received it because, as an intelligence specialist, he leads the 18 men under his command well. And that is really all he has to say on the subject.

Phillips graduated from Moffat County High School in 1991 and joined the Navy two and a half months later, because his dad, Jim Phillips, who Jason describes as his idol, was a Navy man, serving four years before Jason was born.

Now it's 12 years later and Phillips says he loves the Navy, but he can still remember his first day of service. He felt a bit different then.

"I didn't know what I'd done," Phillips said during a phone interview from his home at Fallon Naval Air Station in Fallon, Nev.

He remembers waking up with a shaved head. A first class petty officer was yelling at him. There was a lot of yelling that first day. He was sent from one place to another, going through enlistment work. He remembers that day as being full of confusion.

Now he sees helping newly enlisted sailors adjust to the Navy as one of his main job duties. Remembering his own first day of military service enables him to do that job.

"Guys in the Navy have to put up with things that normal people won't put up with," Phillips said. "They're away from their home and family. They're always being yelled at and have little freedom."

Phillips works to show his men that the Navy isn't a bad thing, even though they may think it is at first. He tries to support them by being a base of knowledge for them, by building a relationship of understanding, and treating everyone fairly.

He acknowledges that the Navy isn't for everyone, but it still makes him mad to hear new sailors badmouthing his branch of the armed forces.

Conversely, one of the main thrills of his job is when he sees a young sailor fall in love with the Navy.

"It's usually after their first enlistment," he said. "You know it's happened when you hear the pride in their voice. That's when they see the good they're doing, when they see the big picture."

Phillips enjoys the Navy so much, he's staying on for the 20-year long haul. There's no doubt in his mind he's going to stay with it till retirement.

Phillips' career has taken him to 13 different countries, including several Middle East nations and Italy. His wife, Angie Phillips, also a Moffat County High School graduate, said she loves Italy, and her husband praises her for the way she adapted to Italian culture.

"Angie is tougher than I am," he said. "She learned to speak Italian and was always talking to the neighbors. There's no challenge she doesn't take on."

Phillips began his service as a weapons technician aboard the USS Roosevelt. But he soon grew bored with that position, and he began serving as an intelligence specialist, the capacity in which he still serves today.

In 1997, Phillips served in Bahrain, an archipelago of sand islands in the Persian Gulf, between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In Bahrain, Phillips was responsible for analysis of enemy intelligence and identification of threats to troops. He had to understand enemy culture so that he could better guess what their tactics might be.

That boils down to one main responsibility to protect American troops.

Phillips is currently stationed at Fallon Naval Air Station, where he lives with his wife and their two sons, the elder age five and the younger nine months of age.

His sons are too young yet for him to tell the effect all the moving has had on them, but he suspects they will handle it well, not because of him but because of his wife.

After hearing Phillips talk about the life he's had with the Navy, it isn't surprising that Phillips recommends the military to others as a path through their lives.

"It gives you a chance at responsibility," he said. "I grew up in the Navy."

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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