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Jun-16-2014 07:18printcomments

Family Affair: Father, Two Sons Help Keep Skies Over Oregon Safe

“It’s like being the coach’s sons when they’re out here,” he said. “The expectation is always that they are held to a higher standard.”


Air Force Senior Airman Zachary Phillips, center, is promoted to his present rank June 7, 2014, at a ceremony on the Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. His brother, Air Force Senior Airman Lewis Phillips, left, and their father, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Phillips participated in the ceremony. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brandon Boyd

(PORTLAND, Ore. ) - He speaks quickly, with a certain believability and earnestness about him, and he sports a fresh, short haircut not two days old.

Perhaps that’s because he’s trying to set an example.

As a first sergeant in the Oregon Air National Guard, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Phillips reports directly to the 142nd Fighter Wing commander on matters of enlisted morale, welfare, and conduct. As a father, he reports to two sons, Lewis and Zach, both of whom dreamed of joining the military ever since they toured the Portland Air National Guard base as small children, coming to see their dad’s unique office.

“They’d come out here to the base for family day [or] Christmas parties. It was always an exciting place for them to visit,” he said.

Phillips' sons said they remember the awe and excitement they felt seeing and hearing the jets take off as they traveled from rural Roseburg, Oregon, to visit their dad at his unique workplace.

"My first memory was my dad introducing us to his co-workers in maintenance. We got to try on night-vision goggles and flight suits, and he took us around to see the different shops on base,” said Air Force Senior Airman Lewis Phillips, the elder of the brothers who followed their father into the Oregon Air National Guard and the 142nd Fighter Wing. They now work just a few steps away from one another.

Lewis Phillips said he was inspired by his father and decided to join the military during his junior year of high school, but he wanted to follow a career path that would prove beneficial both in and out of uniform.

After selecting the medical field as a career specialty, he now works as a search and extraction medic for the 142nd Medical Group Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package. His job is to stabilize patients in emergencies and help transport them from the field for more comprehensive medical care.

His brother, Air Force Senior Airman Zach Phillips, works as a fuel systems specialist for the 142nd Maintenance Squadron, following in the footsteps of his father, who worked as a jet engine mechanic on the F-4 Phantom II, the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the F-15 Eagle.

“Zach’s been learning about jets his entire life, and it’s very cool to know that we’ve worked on some of the same jets,” his father said.

Despite the often challenging military life with deployments, training and time away from home, Sergeant Phillips praised his wife, Teri, for her unwavering support not only for his career, but also for those of their sons.

“I’m glad they chose the Guard,” Sergeant Phillips said. “It’s a totally different culture, and I think it’s a great environment for them.”

He acknowledged that he has especially high expectations for his sons.

“It’s like being the coach’s sons when they’re out here,” he said. “The expectation is always that they are held to a higher standard.”

Story by: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Boyd




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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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