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Minnesota National Guard
Last 133rd Airlift Wing Vietnam-Era Veteran Retires

Michael Stephen Phillips ST PAUL, Minn - Master Sgt Michael Stephen Phillips, the last Vietnam-era veteran to actively serve in the 133rd Airlift Wing, was honored for his 35 years of service at a retirement ceremony at the 133rd's dining facility, Aug 23, 2015

An 18-year-old Phillips first joined the active-duty Air Force on Sep 18, 1973, as a security police specialist and was stationed at the 148th Fighter Wing (when it was still an active duty base) in Duluth Following a seven-year break in service after his initial four-year enlistment ended, Phillips' wife saw an ad on television for a special program in the National Guard, prompting his return to service

"Back then they had what was called the Try-1 program for prior active duty members to join the Guard It allowed you to sign up for a year and see if you liked it," said Phillips "If it didn't work out, you could get out, and if it did well, I ended up staying for another 31 years!"

After various supply positions at the 133rd Airlift Wing in St Paul, Phillips ultimately found his way to the 210th Engineering Installation Squadron in September of 1986, where he spent the rest of his career through August of 2015

"Mike is one of the most character-driven, professional Airmen I have had the privilege of being acquainted with," said Brig Gen Greg Haase, director of the United States European Command's Joint Interagency Counter Trafficking Center and former commander of the 133rd "Mike was always there with a smile, but more important, with that smile he got things done effectively and efficiently"

Phillips' resilient attitude is a testament to someone who had served when wearing the uniform wasn't always a popular decision There was one instance in particular that Phillips remembers while getting gas at a service station

"Two individuals having a conversation were making references toward the Vietnam War and how Service members were nothing but a bunch of war mongers, baby killers and rapists - everything that a Soldier or an Airman actually wasn't," said Phillips "I can remember how hurtful that was to me and I had to just let is roll off my back because I was in uniform"

"At the very best veterans at that time were ignored - and at the very least they were vilified," said Col Loren Hubert, vice commander of the 133rd Airlift Wing "I'd say Mike rose above that 42 years later with his 35 combined years of service I think he transcended the problems of the era he started in, and by electing to stay in, showed a great amount of resiliency on his part"

At the retirement ceremony, a full house of colleagues and friends paid tribute to Phillips with words of accolade and well wishes Doing what he did best, Phillips humorously crunched the numbers on what he kept track of, not just in building materials, but in cups of coffee, soda and donuts that he provided for his co-workers at the 210th

"How do you sum up 35 years in 30 seconds or a minute?" said Phillips "I have had a tremendous career with an organization on the cutting edge of technology while working with some of the brightest people I know

"I can look back on jobs - structures a hundred feet tall or cable buried under the ground for miles - and know that I was a part of that," said Phillips "The items and resources I provided allowed them to get that job done and that is what it was all about, being part of a team"

In his retirement, Phillips plans to get involved as a volunteer at the Trylon Microcinema near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and stay in shape by teaching a water-aerobics class in the Twin Cities area

September 30, 2015
by Tech Sgt Paul Sanitkko
133rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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