COLONEL ROBERT (RIP) PHILLIPS (U.S. Army Retired)
Colonel Robert A. Phillips, originally from Jasper, graduated from Arkansas Tech University in the class of 1956, and served on active duty in the Army for 24 years earning the Silver Star, 2 awards of the Legion of Merit, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star, 18 Air Medals, 2 Meritorious Service Medals, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal; the Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star and the Armed Forces Honor Medal First Class from the Republic of Vietnam; and the Medalha da Pacificadora from the government of Brazil. During his career he also earned his Master Army Aviator wings and his Expert Infantryman’s Badge. As a skilled pilot Colonel Phillips flew a total of 4,206 hours, including 1,160 combat hours, mostly in UH-1 Huey helicopters - but also in the Bell OH-58 Kiowa, Cessna T-41 Mescalero, Cessna O-1 Bird Dog, de Havilland U-6 Beaver and Beechcraft U-8 Seminole.
Colonel Phillips served in Korea and had two combat aviation tours in Vietnam (4 campaigns) where, in 1970, he was the Battalion Commander of the 158th Aviation Battalion (Assault and Ambulance Helicopter), which was assigned the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) during the Battle of Fire Support Base (FSB) Ripcord; the last major confrontation between United States ground forces and the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) during the Vietnam War.
As evidenced by his numerous decorations, Colonel Phillips consistently showed his courage under fire. In 1971 he earned the Silver Star flying a UH-1 Med Evac helicopter to the besieged firebase Aluoi in Laos to evacuate wounded South Vietnamese Troops. During 2 days of medical evacuation flights he subjected himself to numerous mortar attacks and enemy fire to extract critically injured soldiers. His Silver Star citation states: “For gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in Laos. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Phillips distinguished himself on 21 and 22 February 1971 while serving as pilot of a UH-1H medical evacuation helicopter during the medical extraction of Army of the Republic of Vietnam in Laos. Piloting his aircraft to besieged Fire Base Aluoi under marginal weather conditions, LTC Phillips, despite the extreme danger from possible enemy fire, safely evacuated six critically wounded soldiers to a medical facility. On the following day he volunteered to lead three helicopters to Fire Support Base 31 in Laos to extract more critically wounded soldiers. Though his flight came under intense hostile antiaircraft fire while approaching the firebase, LTC Phillips maneuvered his craft through the barrage to the landing zone which immediately came under mortar attack. Subjecting himself to the onslaught, he remained on the ground until fourteen wounded soldiers had boarded and then safely transported them to a nearby hospital. LTC Phillips’ gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”
In 1967, as a Major on his initial combat tour in Vietnam, he earned his first Distinguished Flying Cross while piloting a transport helicopter to resupply an Infantry Platoon with ammunition and medical supplies. As he approached the unit, the enemy unleashed a vicious mortar attack. As soon as it was over he continued his approach to a clearing between the Platoon and the enemy. Flying through a hail of enemy automatic fire he landed his aircraft and remained on the ground helping to unload the cargo while another mortar attack commenced. Once unloaded, he lifted off only to be called back to the platoon to evacuate 2 wounded Americans.
During his 24 year career Colonel Phillips was posted in Korea, Panama, Viet Nam and Brazil as well as stateside assignments in Texas, California, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon in Washington D.C where he was on the Army General Staff in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development and Acquisition leading the CH-47 Modernization Program which included improvements in payload, maintainability, safety, reliability and the initiation of the fly-by-wire program. In his final Army assignment Colonel Phillips served as the Chief of Concepts, Studies, SCORES and Threat Division and Acting Director of Combat Developments, United States Army Aviation Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama, responsible for developing new concepts of employment to guide the future of Army aviation.
Colonel Phillips was a graduate of Jasper High School and served for a brief time in the Arkansas National Guard. He received a B.S. from Arkansas Tech and a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He was also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (USACGSC), U.S. Army War College (USAWC) and the Defense Language Institute. He was a resident of Hot Springs Village at the time of his death.
Colonel Phillips was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame (AMVHOF) on 1 November 2014, at their 4th Annual Induction Ceremonies
Arkansas Military Veterans' Hall of Fame
United States Army Aviation Museum