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Afghanistan to Aircraft Carrier: A Corpsman’s Story
Story by PO3 Skyler Okerman on 08/26/2019
Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Skyler Okerman
ATLANTIC OCEAN Aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), a Sailor sits in his office awaiting another patient, surrounded by memories. On his desk sit photos of his wife and kids, in contrast with one picture that stands out among the rest. On the wall, to the right of his desk, hangs a photo of him and a buddy dressed in body armor, holding rifles, and standing outside a building in the desert, on his deployment to Afghanistan.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Casey Phillips, from Peoria, Arizona, joined the U.S. Navy in 2010 at the age 29. From the very beginning, he has pursued a unique and interesting path in his naval career.
After boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, Phillips went to Navy Basic Hospital Corpsman School and straight to a field medicine course where he learned to be a Fleet Marine Force corpsman.
“My first orders were to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, in Cherry Point, North Carolina,” said Phillips. “I did some time with them and got the opportunity to go on a deployment to Afghanistan in 2012. I was there for about six months working with a small Marine Corps police advisory team where we trained Afghan police to be self-sufficient so that one day we could pull out of the country.”
As a third class and the only medic, Phillips treated over 85 multi-trauma casualties and coordinated over 60 medical evacuations while deployed in Afghanistan.
“My deployment and experiences have taught me how fragile life really is,” said Phillips. “It makes you better when you take what you learn, work harder, and apply it to your work afterwards. When I treated somebody, I would go back and learn how to do it even better. After that, I would train the Marines on basics in field medicine so they can help save lives.”
After over six months in Afghanistan, Phillips finished his deployment, came back to the United States and went to Marine Corps Mountain Survival Course and Navy Instructor Training Course which led to his title as Chief Instructor at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, in Bridgeport, California, from 2014 to 2017.
As a second class petty officer, Phillips trained over 650 joint service, international, and interagency students in life saving medical care in a mountainous environment, specializing in high altitude and cold weather medicine.
“I did it for three years,” said Phillips. “I pretty much got paid to rock-climb, ski and teach mountain survival. We summitted really crazy environments and then treated people with high altitude illness.”
After Phillips finished his teaching career, he went back to school this time, to Surface Warfare Medical Institute in San Diego. After 13 months of schooling, he graduated as an honor graduate in the Surface Force Independent Duty Corpsman program.
“The course is the highest you can go in the corpsman rate,” said Phillips. “So essentially, I’m the enlisted version of a physician’s assistant, I can prescribe medication, perform some minor surgical procedures, and deploy independently where there is no doctor or physician. As an independent duty corpsman, we can be paired up with SEAL teams, come to ships, go with Marines, Seabees or pretty much [on] any platform.”
From 2018 to the present, Phillips has been a senior independent duty corpsman aboard the John C. Stennis.
“It’s very rare for other [hospital corpsman] to have the training I’ve had,” said Phillips. “There’s a sliver of corpsman that have done all the mountaineer training I’ve done, to be able to run the school house, lead a group of instructors and students, and become an independent duty corpsman was truly unbelievable. I try to soak in all of the neat things I’ve done and try to apply my knowledge and experience to what I do now.”
From the very beginning, Phillips planned to do exciting things with his naval career. He wanted to show his abilities as well as train others to replace him one day.
“My plan is to never go to a generic shore or sea command,” said Phillips. “I came into the Navy to go to war and to serve my country by taking bad guys’ off the map and help save lives. I plan to do that by being alongside the special warfare community for my next command.”
Whether he is in Afghanistan or on the John C. Stennis, Phillips continues to work hard, train and be the best hospital corpsman he can be.
The John C. Stennis is underway conducting routine operations in support of Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.
For more news on John C. Stennis, visit www.stennis.navy.mil or follow along on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stennis74.