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 during his deployment to Afghanistan.
Hospital Corpsman First Class Casey Phillips of Peoria 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 Second Marine Aircraft Wing in Cherry Point, North Carolina,” Phillips said. “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 multitrauma casualties and coordinated over 60 medical evacuations while deployed in Afghanistan.
“My deployment and experiences have taught me how fragile life really is,” Phillips said. “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 the 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 lifesaving medical care in a mountainous environment, specializing in high altitude and cold weather medicine.
“I did it for three years,” Phillips said. “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,” Phillips said. “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 corpsmen) to have the training I’ve had,” Phillips said. “There’s a sliver of corpsmen 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,” Phillips said. “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.