KP Phillips is an Army veteran and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He started The Morning Formation podcast out of his passion to help fellow veterans, military spouses, and future military generations with career transition and preparedness.
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Scott DeLuzio 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let’s get on with the show. Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is KP Phillips from The Morning Formation Podcast. KP is an army veteran and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He started The Morning Formation Podcast out of his passion to help fellow veterans, military spouses, and future military generations with career transition and preparedness. So, first off, welcome to the show KP. Thanks for joining me,
KP Phillips 00:00:55 Scott, the honor’s all mine. I really appreciate you having me on the show and it was great also doing an interview with you and digging into some of your experiences and what you had to deal with as well, including your time in the military. So thank you for having me.
Scott DeLuzio 00:01:08 Yeah, absolutely. And for people who are listening and just finding out about The Morning Formation Podcast, right now through this episode, as KP just mentioned, we recorded an episode a few weeks ago, on his podcast. So, definitely go check out that episode and all of the other episodes that have a lot of great guests and great insights on various topics on his podcast. So definitely go check that out, follow that, subscribe to it., leave reviews, do all the things that people usually ask for when you’re talking about a podcast. It’s a great show, with a lot of great content on there. So, you won’t be disappointed. For anyone, like I was just mentioning for anyone who may not be familiar with you and in your podcast, why don’t you give us a little bit of information about yourself, your background, how you got into the army, and all that kind of stuff?
KP Phillips 00:02:08 Yeah. So that’s a really good start, actually. So I’m an army brat. My dad was drafted in 71 and by the time he finished up ranger school and everything, he was not sent to Vietnam. He was sent to Germany instead, he ended up spending 20 years in the military and it wasn’t something that he planned to do had he not been drafted. And so I grew up basically living the army life. I was born in Hawaii, which is in the middle of Oahu, which is next to Schofield barracks for anyone that’s ever been stationed there with 25th. So my dad was actually out at east range at the pre-ranger course for a number of years, and I got a chance to kind of grow up out there in the forest and the jungles of Hawaii.
KP Phillips 00:02:55 Well my dad ended up retiring in 91. And soon after that, he moved back to his home state in Ohio and my parents divorced and I ended up going with him, living with him, and it was quite a culture shock going from the state of Hawaii and speaking pidgin English, and then moving to Ohio, literally out in the middle of the soybean and cornfields., I gotta say I got a really good opportunity growing up to meet all types of cultures, all types of great people. It was an awesome experience. And then after high school, I was involved in sports all through high school and after high school, my dad just straight up told me, he said, well, you weren’t smart enough to get a scholarship.
KP Phillips 00:03:45 So either you can go to the community college and live here and stay under my rules, or you can go into the military. And I said I’m not staying here. So talk to an army recruiter. And at the very last second, before I signed, I had an old, previous football coach that got with me and said, Hey what have you considered joining the army national guard? And I said I don’t even know what that is. So we sat down and talked about it. And at the time with my goals of wanting to go to college, that was the best thing for me to do. And I’m very thankful that he kind of swooped me up at the last minute and had that conversation with me because I ended up signing up with the Army National Guard three days after leaving high school, I go to basic training, finished up my AIT, which back then I took the bonus and I was a 77 Foxtrot, which is a refueler.
KP Phillips 00:04:33 I didn’t know what that was at the time, like any of us, right. We just signed up and we went and did that for four years. I always found myself out on the flight line, refueling Blackhawks, and the Kiowa helicopters. And it was kind of a dirty job, man. Because many times you’d hook up to the bird. And then you turn on the pump, and all of a sudden you get JP aid all over you. And Hey, I had to earn college money in some way. And then my junior year, I decided to take the next step up., I have just done my four years and gotten out and received my degree. But I thought it would be more of an honor to become a commissioned officer, especially since my father was enlisted for 20 years, retired as an EA.
KP Phillips 00:05:17 That’d be kind of cool to have him, be my first salute and to do something above and beyond what many of my other family members didn’t do. I signed up for ROTC, went through the SMP program, the simultaneous membership program. And the day that I got my bachelor’s degree was the day that I pinned on my second Lieutenant bar. And I joined the active-duty army. And the advice that my dad gave me back then because I really considered going infantry. He said, oh, you need to get into logistics of some sort because when you get out fortune 500 companies are going to like that. And that was good advice. So I ended up going to the ordinance. I didn’t really know what that was either. And came to find out it was maintenance and ammunition.
KP Phillips 00:06:02 I had an idea, but I didn’t really know. They kind of advertise themselves as being ammo, but really there’s more maintenance involved. So to be honest with you, my heart wasn’t in it. When I went through OBC, I was just like, what am I doing here? I came out of OBC, went to my first duty station, which I happen to get stationed back on the 25th in Hawaii, and am very fortunate because I do have family there. The thing was, as soon as they landed in 2004 in Honolulu, they informed me that in 30 days I’d be going to Iraq in Mosul Iraq. So it was quite a surprise for me. I had been in contact with them, trying to find out like, Hey, is there any possibility of me deploying soon? Or just give me some ideas so I can plan my life a little bit.
KP Phillips 00:06:48 I get it, I had to go do it, but I just want to kind of know. They kind of kept me in the dark until I got there. And then they said, Hey, 30 days, you’re going to go downrange. And so being 24 at the time, probably eight months out of college, it was sort of a shocker to me. Like I knew I was going to deploy at some point. I just didn’t know when. And 2004 that was right shortly after Fallujah happened. And I actually have a sort of a distant family member who was involved in the whole Blackwater ambush, his name is Wesley Barcelona and he was one of the Blackwater folks that was ambushed and killed during that attack. He worked with my dad strangely enough. He worked with my dad up at the east range.
KP Phillips 00:07:35 There were a bunch of Rangers up there running around the jungle acting crazy,, back in the day. So, we did have some ties to him, aside from just being family. So I went to my first duty station and then I ended up in Mosul, Iraq. I was assigned to a headquarters company and as many of you listening will know that if you’re a second Lieutenant assigned to a headquarters company, you don’t have any business being there. They don’t want you there. They want the higher-ranking folks to be there running the sections and whatnot. So what are they going to do with the second Lieutenant? I was kind of an orphan. They ended up sending me out to a transportation unit that was actually a reserve unit.
KP Phillips 00:08:20 So I replaced a Lieutenant in the country that had already been there, which was very challenging to do, straight out of OBC. Second Lieutenant, I did have my enlisted time behind me to help me out with my experiences. But when it came down to understanding what my platoon was doing MOS-wise, I had no idea they were truck drivers. It was a transportation unit. So they were convoying. So right there on the ground, I was very fortunate to have NCO CO’s that kind of stood next to me and helped train me up to learn how to do what they did because, in reality, leadership is leadership when it comes to managing folks, but then understanding what they do on the technical side of things. You really have to rely heavily on the folks that are the technical masters when it comes to doing that kind of stuff.
KP Phillips 00:09:10 So it was very fortunate in that aspect, but a big challenge to take over a platoon in Iraq like that, especially a reserved platoon that had already been together, had already had the cohesion. They already have been through training, been through a lot of things together and a new face comes in. So did that for about a year. Did a lot of convoys outside the wire, was involved in a lot of different things. Go back to Hawaii afterwards, get put back with a new unit again. So I’m a new face and I’m a senior Lieutenant now. Because I’m the senior Lieutenant, I’m the executive officer of this company and no one really knows who I am. So did that. And then, became a battalion S3 for a bit and decided to resign my commission and get out. I felt like I had done a total of eight years in the military.
KP Phillips 00:09:56 And I felt like that’s what I went out to accomplish. I had my master’s degree in hand and decided to get out at that point. So the transition side of everything was kind of difficult when it came to getting out because I thought that being an army captain, having your master’s degree, having wartime experience was enough for me to get out here and get a good job. I was fortunate to find a job, but it wasn’t the exact job that I wanted. It was sort of one of those things where when the cards were on the table, it looked like there was a lot there, but when it was all said and done, there was only one card left and I had to take this job or go unemployed. So I like many like 45 to 55% of veterans. I got a job immediately after I got out. I stayed there for about a year and then I quit. And so then for a while, I bounced around and, I did find some good employment eventually it was a struggle. It was a challenge. And so, yeah, that’s pretty much my military experience in my life experience in a nutshell.
Scott DeLuzio 00:11:01 That’s a lot of stuff to unpack there, a lot of stuff going on throughout your military career. I definitely want to dive into some of this stuff, a little bit deeper here. I found through my own experiences in the military that some of the best officers are the ones who had prior enlisted experience. We were talking a little bit about this before we started recording here. But you sort of mentioned that too, but how do you feel that your time serving as an enlisted, service member, helped you after you became an officer?
KP Phillips 00:11:42 So being a good officer, as far as having the elicit experience behind you is pretty subjective, but yeah, most of the time you do have experience of being enlisted, it does help you out. I think what helped me out the most when it came to having that enlistment time behind me was understanding what it was like to be a private, to understand what it was like to be a specialist, and to be standing in formation with someone in front of you in charge of you and them saying something. And also leading by example too. We’ve all had those leaders before who talk, but they never do. And that was one of the things that I absolutely hated when I was just a private or PFC or specialist was when you had a lousy NCO or a lousy platoon leader in front of you.
KP Phillips 00:12:35 And they would talk a lot, but they would never do anything. They would never bother to go out on the flight line with you and understand what it was like to get smashed with JPA all over your clothes. And they never bought, they never bothered to get out there and the inclement weather and go out there and set up a farm out in the middle of nowhere. And that was the one thing that I didn’t want to be as a leader. And it’s so funny, because I recently spoke to a previous soldier of mine and, I don’t know if they had forgotten or whatever, but I mentioned one night that when we were outside the wire, we were hit with an ID. And I said, yeah, at the time I was driving and they were like, you were driving. Like when I was a Lieutenant, I would drive, I would gun, I would be a combat commander. I did all of it. So that was one of the things that came from my listening experience wanting to do all those different types of things.
Scott DeLuzio 00:13:26 Yeah. And I noticed that with the other, former enlisted officers who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, as a matter of fact, they almost seemed like uncomfortable if they weren’t getting their hands dirty, to some extent where they wanted to be there with the guys and do some of that type of work. Whereas some other officers would be just as happy, passing off the work and going and sitting in their air-conditioned office or whatever, and not doing the work. So, and that’s not to say off just like that. I’m not trying to paint officers in a bad bite or anything like that. But I definitely did notice the difference with the prior-enlisted, type folks. You also mentioned the transition, I guess, from enlisted to officer that you went through. I guess for the current enlisted people who might be listening to this episode, what were the steps that you took to ultimately become an officer? Obviously, you went to school and everything, but what was that like? What was that program that you went through and how can people find out more about going down that route?
KP Phillips 00:14:47 Scott, I’m really glad that you asked this question because many times I mentor folks on how to become an officer or how to join the military and all their options. A lot of folks think that there’s one road to get there, but there’s many roads. So you have your officer candidate school OCS, which is offered through the National Guard Reserves and active duty. It’s a much more difficult path to get through because you have to apply for it. And you’re already in boots, or you can go through a service academy obviously, but then just about every university out there will offer an Army ROTC program. And so within that Army ROTC program, you will have your cadets that were recruited out of high school, who are on three-year scholarships, but then there’s also another program called the simultaneous membership program, which as far as I know is available in every single state out there.
KP Phillips 00:15:47 And despite the long weird name, simultaneous membership program, it’s also called SMP. It’s sort of a green to gold program where I was drilling with my National Guard unit. And I was at the same time going full-time to college back then to be eligible for it, which I think it’s lower now. I think you have to be a sophomore, but back then you had to be a junior. So you had to have so many credits. I basically walked up to my ROTC department and introduced myself and said who I was and told them that I was interested in becoming an officer and what options are out there. And so what you can do is you can, you can go to college, full-time join the Army ROTC program, which will require you to take the ROTC courses. In addition to your regular courses, you’ll have to go to physical fitness training like three days a week.
KP Phillips 00:16:40 So you can forget about college night and ladies night on Tuesdays and Thursdays there’s days of winter, or there things are because there were many times I had to choose between going out with friends or getting up in the morning and doing physical fitness training before all my classes. And at the same time, you are still a full-time student, you’re involved in ROTC, but then you also go to your unit and you take away your, take away your rank. And then they give you a little disc. It’s like a little silver disc circle. You’re a cadet at that point. And I know it’s changed. I did this in the state of Ohio back then. It was weird because I literally took off my corporate rank. And then the next day I put on a little disk and I was in this weird gray area of being, one of the dudes in a S in a Sur.
KP Phillips 00:17:28 So it was really weird, but these were the guys that I used to work with before. So it was, it was strange, but so I did that for about two years. And then the day that I graduated from college, I was discharged from the Army National Guard and honorably discharged from the National Guard. And then I was accepted into the active-duty Army. And I pinned on my second Lieutenant rank. And then from there, because I had some time between my officer basic course. The day that I graduated, I served as a gold bar recruiter for my university where I helped out the recruiting officer bring in quality candidates, which was a good experience too.
Scott DeLuzio 00:18:10 It’s great that there’s multiple paths and the people who would think all while I’ve already enlisted. So I can’t be an officer or anything like that. It’s not true. There are paths that you can take. And, there are definite avenues that you can explore. And this is just one of those options. And, one of the things that I like to do on this show is give options to people who maybe you’re feeling stuck at as an enlisted guy or gal or whatever in your unit. And you feel like you want to advance, but you’re not really sure what the process is. Here’s one option for you. This could help you get to that point, to become an officer, in your unit or move on to someplace else.
Scott DeLuzio 00:19:01 If that’s not the job that you really want to be doing. It’s just like a lot of people just sign up and not really know what you’re getting into. You want to move on to something else. I’m glad you’re able to share that and share a little bit of how that process worked for you and everything. I was in the National Guard as well, and we had a bunch of cadets in our unit, at one point and you’re right. It was kind of a gray area where they were young college kids, and they didn’t really have a place. they were almost treated as enlisted, but, but you still get them, give them the same respect as an officer, the CERN man, and all that kind of stuff. Like it’s that weird gray area. I don’t know. It was just, it was, it was just really, awkward. And, and one of them happened to be, one of my cousins as well. And so, and he was younger than me. And so, that was just an added, weird experience. It was like, oh, I knew you when you were like this tall.,
KP Phillips 00:20:15 You mentioned before camp Atterbury and we’re talking offline. And it is so funny because that was my first weird experience. I was in my unit. It was cool. Like everyone knew me. But when I went to Camp Atterbury I was in front of people that didn’t know who I was, and they were looking at this. This was back in early two thousands. So it wasn’t that common as it is now, from what I understand, well, that’s camp Atterbury, you have all these different units there. And that was the first time I ever had somebody lock their heels and like, call me, sir. And I was like, I was looking, I looked behind me, he was talking to me like, thank you. I don’t know what to say. It was just really awkward.
KP Phillips 00:20:55 That was my experience early on, I guess, with that. So when you mentioned Camp Atterbury I kind of, that brought me back to that time where I thought the E4 mafia was with me and I wasn’t before, like before. And so they’re like, they were laughing about the whole situation. There are many, many paths to get to where you want to go. And, it’s definitely a great opportunity despite all the stereotypes and whatnot of going to the dark side and becoming an officer. I really think that it’s a great opportunity for you to take a step up and challenge yourself if you’re interested in going down that path or climbing the ranks of NCO. Do you just like my dad did at the end of the day, progress is progress.
Scott DeLuzio 00:21:39 Exactly. And The army needs good NCOs is just like, they need good officers. And so whichever route you take, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just a different option for different people who want different things out of their careers. And so again, I like having these options available to people so that they know that these are possibilities for them so that they don’t say, oh, well, my career is not going anywhere. I’m just going to get out and figure it out on the outside or whatever if they want it to advance and become an officer or whatever. I want to go back to your time in Iraq, before we started recording here, you had briefly mentioned a story about some leadership issues that you had over there. I’d like to kind of go down that path if you want. Talking about that time over there, what your job was like over there. What you guys were up to and, and what ultimately led to some of these, these leadership changes that took place.
KP Phillips 00:22:39 He did a lot of great things in Iraq, and I’ll just say this right upfront. I worked with a lot of really good NCOs, a lot of really good enlisted folks out there that really helped me out. And I felt like there were a lot of folks out there that had my back and then there were people out there that probably didn’t have my best interests in mind. But as I mentioned earlier, I replaced a Lieutenant. I replaced a platoon leader in Iraq. So a lot of folks in their experiences get an opportunity to join their unit and Garrison get that time and training together gel, you get to know all the soldiers and then you deploy that. Wasn’t my track at all. Mine was, I really was sort of like an orphan the entire time. I went for, I first went to, when I went to Hawaii to Schofield barracks, I was sort of just tossed around.
KP Phillips 00:23:31 And for some reason put me into this headquarters company that really didn’t want me. So, and then I go up and I go to Iraq in a replacement unit with six other soldiers. So we’re just kind of on our own making our way to combat. And my first platoon. It was quite difficult because in everything that you’ve been taught, everything that you’re taught to listen to your platoon Sergeant, listen to your platoon Sergeant, and trust people. And that was the one thing that I probably couldn’t have done with this first unit was to trust the leadership and long story short. Just the gist of everything. I ended up after about nine months of dealing with my platoon Sergeant, I ended up having to do the very, very difficult, hard left and firing him and replacing it with someone else, which is unheard of for a Lieutenant to do.
KP Phillips 00:24:29 And a lot of it had to do with the general one alpha stuff where, no alcohol, no drugs, no pornography, and had to do with alcohol. And a lot of, from what I understand now, what I didn’t know back then was that this was stemming from the initial, cohesive stage when this unit came together. So there was leadership that was basically involved with drinking with the soldiers. And it was something that I was not aware of until I actually got there. And then I tried to deal with it. I feel like I was placed there by design to fix the problem because there were too many other pieces that were involved, who were in leadership positions, where if they had dealt with this big problem that was going on, that, they would have also been blackmailed and poured into it as well.
KP Phillips 00:25:33 And it’s really interesting because I just reconnected with an E4 that worked for me back then. I think she ended up doing a total of eight years and becoming a staff Sergeant or Sergeant first class, I’m not sure, but I reconnected with her and I got kind of her perspective on things because it was a very dangerous time in 2004 in Mosul, Iraq. And we were going outside the wire, we’ve been hit with IEDs. We were small arms fire. And it was, so it was so contentious at that time because you go outside the wire and you deal with the insurgency, and then you come back inside the wire and you deal with this toxic environment where you’ve got a Platoon Sergeant. You’ve got, company command all involved with this alcohol scheme of going outside the wire and bringing stuff in.
KP Phillips 00:26:21 And yet you’re just a lowly Lieutenant trying to figure out how to fix this problem? And at that point, I had two options. I could either just go straight to the behind command and say, look, this is what’s going on, right. Everybody up or fix it. And that’s kind of what I chose to do. And I guess my, my number one learning point from all that is, do what’s right to the best of your ability because there were too many times where I was stuck in this mindset of listen to your leadership, listen to your platoon Sergeant. And I was stuck between that and this isn’t right. So for those eight to nine months or so before I actually had to fire him, I would say it was less than that actually. I was getting all kinds of crap because I wanted to replace him.
KP Phillips 00:27:11 He was a very There was a very tactically sound NCO, very good, like when it came to thinking on his feet, but when it came to making decisions, he was just everyone’s buddy, basically. And so sometimes you gotta do the right thing. And that whole incident that I’m talking about right now, it kind of haunted me for a while because, at the very end of the deployment, it became known that this was going on and there were people that were given article fifteen written up, about this whole alcohol incident thing. And, it haunted me because I kind of felt like a failure for a long time. But in reality, when I look at the totality of what was going on, it was such a difficult situation to have dealt with. I don’t think many people would have come out unscathed by it.
KP Phillips 00:28:00 Like I said, most of my buddies who took over their first platoon, they had an opportunity to gel their unit train with them and Garrison went downrange. There was a respect level between the NCO and the platoon leader that was nowhere to be found. It was just one of those situations where, like I said, I had to fire someone that I didn’t really want to fire and I wanted to trust. And, sometimes when you’re taking over a leadership opportunity, it’s not going to be a textbook. It’s not going to be as pretty as, like all the classes I took being an officer, as they painted it out to be. They said, oh, when you get to your first unit, just listen to your platoon. Sergeant Lee that’s not always going to be the case.
KP Phillips 00:28:43 Your platoon Sergeant might be a dirtbag and you might have to do the right thing based on your own experience. And so going back, looking at that whole thing, man, it wasn’t a failure for me. To be honest, I looked at it and I tried to think of like, what could I have done differently? And there’s really nothing I could have done differently because the whole situation itself went outside the wire, coming back inside the wire, dealing with a very toxic environment. Man. We’re lucky that we made it out alive and we had some close calls, but that was a very stressful year of my life for sure.
Scott DeLuzio 00:29:17 Yeah, definitely. And when you’re faced with a situation where there’s that choice between following a long status quo or just kind of letting things happen or doing the right thing, which happens to be the difficult thing. Firing a platoon Sergeant, like you said that’s not something that usually happens. Usually, if you’re going to get up to the point where you are a platoon Sergeant, you’ve pretty much squared away, in a lot of cases. You’re not getting busted back down to the private or like that. You’ve worked hard to get, get up to that position, and you tend to take it seriously. But in some cases, there are those people who slipped through the cracks and you will end up having a situation where you do need to stand up and do the right thing.
Scott DeLuzio 00:30:21 I’m sure you’re not the only one who noticed that this was becoming a problem. I’m sure some of the enlisted guys were probably thinking to themselves, like, this is a problem, but what do I do? I’m just a three, four, or whatever, and what do I do with it? So how, how am I going to tell my Platoon Sergeant, to stop drinking or whatever.
KP Phillips 00:30:52 Well, it was actually very divided. There was like half the platoon that hated me and half the platoon that respected me. And it was sort of one of those deals where they were involved too. And then come to find out when I came back from a deployment that the company command was potentially involved in this whole thing too. And that’s why they wanted me to fix it. And over there, they always wanted you to be ready because you never knew when you had to do a QRF and go outside the wire to do something. So I understand completely a hundred percent why it was important to always stay clean and always be ready. But the challenge was for one being a new person, being a new face, getting them to understand that we can’t do this anymore.
KP Phillips 00:31:40 Not understanding this has been a practice since you guys started training together. And so I looked like the bad guy to some folks. I think that was kind of the challenge itself. When I talked to the soldier that worked for me, they had told me that they had a hard time as well with being harassed, and doing this and doing that. And I thought, yeah, well, I was too,, just because I was a Lieutenant didn’t mean that I had it easy. I had a lot of people that looked at me like, what are you doing here? So I’m just thankful that we made it through that entire year without having any casualties. We’re very fortunate because the previous unit that we replaced had had, at least I think, three casualties in just one of their platoons. So very, very fortunate for that.
Scott DeLuzio 00:32:35 And, when you think about the people who had a problem with you and the situation that was unfolding, I think how much bigger of a problem they would have had if someone did get seriously injured or killed because of what was going on and maybe not doing anything about it. I think they’re probably better able to sleep at night knowing that some Lieutenant back in Iraq decided to bust up the platoon Sergeant and make some changes to ultimately make things better and safer for the unit versus how they’d be able to sleep at night, had something gone wrong and had one of their friends get killed because bad leadership decisions. Maybe the Platoon Sergeant may have made it if he was drunk out on a patrol or something like that.
Scott DeLuzio 00:33:38 So ultimately you made the right decision. I think in my book, I think that’s definitely the right move. I know other countries, the soldiers are afforded the opportunity to drink while they’re deployed. We don’t, and that’s just something that we have to respect. And I think because of maybe the culture or whatever, maybe we don’t handle it as well as maybe some other people or whatever. I don’t know what the exact reasons are, but I think ultimately you made the right decision.
KP Phillips 00:34:15 Yeah. And I’ll say this, like, would that be my first experience having an NCO after that? Getting a good NCO was refreshing. When I came back to my unit and Hawaii, and I was very fortunate to have several other platoon sergeants, I mean, I was so thankful to have a strong NCO that understood and knew what they were doing and understood the line between leadership and being buddies and being friends.
Scott DeLuzio 00:34:43 Right. Yeah. You also talked a little bit about your transition out of the military, and there are a lot of service members that transition from military to civilian life is difficult. So, what was your transition out of the military? What were some of the challenges that you faced?
KP Phillips 00:35:04 I would say the biggest challenge that I faced was being my own worst enemy when it came to seeking help. And I know that it’s changed quite a bit since 2007 when I resigned my commission. Back then, there really wasn’t a whole lot of help available for you. It was either use whatever they had there on base or if you were lucky enough, you could get online and maybe connect with a website and find one of those jobs. Jump headhunters to help you connect and sit across from recruiters and get hired. And so today you have LinkedIn, you have all these social media platforms. You have the pendulum has kind of swung in the opposite direction to how this space has so many people out there trying to help veterans out. And I don’t know what it’s like to be a service member right now and having to hear all this noise, because when I was getting out, there was no noise.
KP Phillips 00:35:58 It was just, Hey, you’re getting out, and good luck. And so one of the biggest things that I wish I had done better was I wish I had not been my worst enemy in a sense of accepting help from people. And I’ll give you an example of that. I had a soldier that brought me their resume, and I looked at it and I thought, this is trash. This is complete trash, Who did this? And it was the OnBase, a transition career center. Apparently, there was someone there that had helped this soldier write this resume out. And in my opinion, it was just complete garbage. It did not look good at all. And I helped them with what I thought. It’s very subjective when you’re writing a resume, but I helped them get some better ideas on how they should change some things up.
KP Phillips 00:36:44 So I thought to myself, I’m not even going to go there. The day that I out process, I’m just going to go in, have them sign my paperwork because I’m an officer. I can just go around and check me off here, check me off there. And so that’s pretty much what I did. I didn’t go to them. I think it was required that you’re supposed to see them for like a month out or something to get counseling. And I didn’t do that. I was like, I’m not doing that. So I should have, because who knows, maybe the person that helped that soldier write that resume was just having a bad day, or maybe it was just one person out of like 12. That was just terrible., I don’t know, but I should have, I should have picked up the help.
KP Phillips 00:37:17 I should’ve taken help whenever, whenever it was available. And whenever it was there, I didn’t do that. And I thought that when I marched out of the army with my captain rank and my time in combat and my master’s degree I worked really hard when I came back from Iraq, I literally hit the ground running and I went to the education center and started knocking out my master’s degree because I didn’t want to have to struggle. And I thought that would be enough. And, it wasn’t, there’re so many aspects of transitioning that you don’t understand. You can’t just show up with your degree and think here I am, and here’s my service. And here’s my combat time. And throw rose petals at my feet and hire me. That’s not going to happen. There’s networking involved.
KP Phillips 00:38:04 There’s actually relating to the recruiters, understanding the culture of the company that you’re going into. There’s a lot of things that you have to do aside from just showing up with the hardware. And that was the one thing that I didn’t do. And I wish I had done better. And over the years, since I got out, before I started podcasting and whatnot, I did my best within my capacity to still try to effectively help people manage and find careers after the military or just family members who are interested in getting any type of interview, help, resume, help. I’ve always spent extra time doing that kind of stuff. So that was probably my, my biggest thing was, and like, like I said earlier, like out of, I was probably part of 55 per I think it’s like 55% of military veterans that get out and get that first job end up quitting within the first 12 to 24 months. And so I’m part of that. I’m part of that stat and I wish I had understood the other aspects, of understanding culture and understanding like the actual company that you’re going to go into and understanding how to network better.
Scott DeLuzio 00:39:24 Yeah, you’re absolutely right. There are a tremendous amount of resources available these days for people transitioning for different services that people might require after getting out of the military. There’s a lot of people who will help with things like what you were talking about, writing a resume, or learning how to go on in an interview, a job interview. A lot of people, they joined the military right out of high school. They’ve never been to a real professional job interview or anything like that. They never had to be at fault of their own. They never had to because they joined the military at 18 years old, or, and then they stay in for 20, some odd years and now they’re pushing 40 and, and they’ve never been on an interview and they don’t know really what to expect.
Scott DeLuzio 00:40:15 And so there’s organizations out there that do that type of stuff where they’ll do mock interviews with you and go over your resume and make sure that you have a suit to wear to an interview and all that kind of stuff.. Because you don’t necessarily think about those things when you’re in the military. And from week to week, your job is relatively stable and you don’t need to worry about finding a new job and all that kind of stuff until you do. And then, then you start thinking about it and it’s like, oh crap, what do I have to even do with all this? And soon it’s definitely great that the tide has turned and, and bet more resources are available for, for these people who are getting out and, and need that type of support.
Scott DeLuzio 00:41:09 It’s really, really good. It could be at times feeling like you’re drinking from a fire hose, with so many resources out there. It’s definitely good. I think that there is stuff out, things out there that people can use. Let’s talk about The Morning Formation Podcast. I want to give you a chance to talk about that. Tell us what it’s all about. What was the spark that led you to creating that, you were saying before you started it you were still wanting to help people was that something that kind of came up through helping some of these people, or was this something else that kind of sparked it?
KP Phillips 00:41:50 So that’s a really good question. Scott, I had for many years, the one aspect that I really missed about being a soldier and being in the military and specifically being an officer was the opportunity to stand in front of a formation and affect change in people, positive change in people. So when I came back from Hawaii like I said when I came back from Iraq, went to Hawaii back at Schofield Barracks, that was the one thing that I used to try to talk to soldiers about quite a bit was, Hey, what are you doing Friday night? What are you doing Saturday night? Like, get your butt to the education center, look at what they have for you. When you’re in Garrison, now’s the time for you to start investing in yourself. And so you talk the talk, you walk the walk at the time I was getting my master’s degree at the same time.
KP Phillips 00:42:42 I also got a couple of other lieutenants to do the same thing to consider getting their master’s degrees. Because nothing is worse than spending three or four years in the military. And then walking out with just your military experience, while you’re there, you have these resources there. So utilize them. And I was fortunate, they always say that if you’re talking to a room of like 40 or 50 if you get through to like two or three people. That’s called success. And I did have a few soldiers that did listen to what I was saying, and they went ahead and, there are a few success stories out there of folks that had worked for me. And I’m very proud of that because I can’t say that I am the number one contributor to them going out and investing themselves.
KP Phillips 00:43:29 But it’s nice to know that I had a little part in that journey for that person. And, I think that’s invaluable to actually go out there and positively affect someone else’s life and change their life in a sense of getting them to have a better career when they transition out. That was one of the biggest things that I focused on. And so The Morning Formation came along because I always wanted to do something like this. And it was one of those things where I kind of had a little incident happen. It was a stalking incident that happened when I was in the national guard. And it was, it’s a really strange, long story that I, I do plan on going into at some point, but it was one of those things that caused me to kind of erase myself from being online and not, not being found.
KP Phillips 00:44:25 And it was scary to a point of, I found out later that I was being, I was being watched, when I didn’t know I was being watched. It was another soldier in the National Guard that had some mental issues. Long story short. It was a soldier that had some mental issues. And for some reason over the time of being in that unit had developed a sort of a cable guy mentality. If anyone’s seen that movie before, and he got that video, I’m being serious. Like it got to a point where like, it was like these weird phone calls, letters, emails, not just to me, but to several other soldiers where it was like, Hey friend. And at first, you’re just like, okay, cool, cool, cool, whatever. And then, then it turned into this obsession-type thing where all of a sudden, like this small group of guys in the unit, were like his best buddies in the whole world.
KP Phillips 00:45:21 And he was going to work, which we didn’t know anyone who worked with him. He was going to work talking about us and stuff. And anyways there was some property damage done and the FBI got it. It was really, really crazy, but so there’s that, that kind of traumatized me from wanting to be out there. I still think about it today, because I decided to not let that situation control my life. That’s something I can get into another time, Scott. I know we got it. We don’t have so much time, but a combination of that kinda kept me from doing it. , and then also too, but what kept me from wanting to do it was like I said, I missed that whole thing, that whole aspect of being in front of formation and just being able to effect positive change in people. So it’s kind of a combination of both, why I started The Morning Formation.
Scott DeLuzio 00:46:12 Yeah. And You mentioned that soldier who you were able to affect a little bit of change in, and ultimately that, that individual had to make the decision to go to school on their own. They can’t lead the horse to water. You can’t make them drink that kind of thing. You can, you can show them the path to get to school. You can’t sit in the classroom for them and do the work and everything like that. They have to do that kind of work. But you can give them a kick in the pants to get started, right. To make them realize that they’re, they’re just wasting their time. If they’re going out drinking with their buddies, instead of trying to better themselves. Not to say that you can’t go out and have a good time every once in a while, but, but if that, that becomes your life and that’s all you’re doing with your time, then you’re kind of throwing a lot of valuable time away where you could be taking some of that time and, and applying it towards bettering yourself, getting an education and all that kind of stuff.
Scott DeLuzio 00:47:21 So, you definitely need to have those types of people in your life, and it’s great that you were able to be that, that type of person for some of your soldiers and even, The Morning Formation Podcast where you’re helping share these stories and that people in the right direction. I think that’s a great thing that you’re doing. I think the podcast is wonderful. It’s really a great show, a lot of great information, great guests that you have on. So we met, another podcast or, from Vet with Mike, podcast, we were just talking about him a little bit earlier. We had both done some kind of crossover episodes with him as well.
Scott DeLuzio 00:48:13 And, so, this community that we’ve kind of discovered, I feel like I stumbled into it. I wasn’t actively seeking this community, but here it is of all these fellow podcasters and other people who are out there trying to help out veterans and get resources and, and help in training and all this other stuff out there I feel like I kind of stumbled across it, but it’s really a blessing to be a part of this community to help out other people and help spread messages of different advice and inspirational stories and all that kind of stuff too. So I think it’s great what you’re doing with your podcast and a lot of the other podcasters are doing, I think it really is great.
KP Phillips 00:49:02 Yeah, you mentioned Ryan with Vet with a mic. He’s a really good dude, man. I mean, I really resonated with him and what’s really interesting about a lot of podcasters is we all have our own sense of style and we all have our own sense of how we run things. And the thing about Ryan is he’s just very, because of his background too, because he’s studied mental health. He’s very smooth when it comes to talking and digging into things. So yeah, definitely worth the listen for anyone listening out there as a check-out Vet with a Mike. He’s certainly own style and I love it, man. I definitely resonate with that guy.
Scott DeLuzio 00:49:41 Yeah, for sure. I recorded with him a couple weeks ago and we really just hit it off right off the bat and it was really a cool thought cool episode and everything. So, go check that podcast out as well. Like I said earlier about The Morning Formation Podcast, go check out Vet with a Mike, subscribe to that and everything. We leave the reviews and comments and all that kind of stuff with that. But, with your podcast, where can people go to find out more about your podcast and subscribe to it and listen to it?
KP Phillips 00:50:17 I think the easiest place to go is to my website, which is www.themorningformation.com. And, just really quickly I called it The Morning Formation because, the part of that I missed being a Lieutenant was actually standing in front of formation and being able to speak to folks, but I always felt like that was kind of the best time for us to get together was the first thing on Monday mornings to talk about the weekend. I’m not a morning person. I hate morning formation. It was stressful to get there on time and everything, but at the end of the day, you can also attest to this too Scott. A lot of the crappy things that we did in the military were probably the best things that brought us together. And for sure that was the meaning behind The Morning Formation and the best place to go simply would be the website, www.themorningformation.com. And I’m also on Instagram, under the same name, everything.
Scott DeLuzio 00:51:16 And I’ll have links to all of this in the show notes for anyone who’s interested in checking it out, but, but you’re absolutely right about some of the crap things that you had to do. Definitely brought us together a lot more, a lot tighter. I know before we went to Afghanistan we went out driving. We were at Fort Polk in Louisiana and we were out driving the Humvees. off-road in, in this kind of marshy muddy area. It had been raining all week. And so the ground was just soaked, and big puddles of water everywhere. You, you, I mean, you shouldn’t be driving through big puddles of water. But for some reason, whoever was in the lead truck was like, no, we can make it. We can make it a long story short, we couldn’t make it.
Scott DeLuzio 00:52:06 We ended up getting the truck stuck. We went out around like dinnertime, like 1800, 1900 somewhere around then, at, in the evening. And we’re only supposed to be out for an hour, maybe two, depending on how slow it took us to get around this trail that we’re going on. We ended up being there until the next morning, just digging the trucks out. We were, luckily we had axes in the back of our trucks. And so we chopped down trees to use, to put underneath the tires and all that kind of stuff. There was a footprint, I think at one point we may not have actually been on Fort Polk anymore. We might’ve been on private land. At one point we all turned around and everything, it was awful, but there was a footbridge and it, you definitely could tell someone took some time.
Scott DeLuzio 00:52:54 It was like dug into the ground and everything. It was this wooden bridge and we just tore that thing apart to use the wood, to put onto the tires of the Humvees and everything, because we were like we’re stuck. And we even called for the records to come out and try to tow us out of there. And they got stuck. It was that bad. It was awful. I wouldn’t trade that experience as crazy as it was. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything because it brought our whole platoon together. It’s so much closer in that shared suffering, that shared bonding experience. Whenever someone talks about, that crappy experience brings people together, the story that always comes to my mind is how we all came together because our entire platoon was on this.
Scott DeLuzio 00:53:51 and a lot of us, we’re just kind of like, okay, cool. We’ll just hang out in the back of the Humvees and let the drivers figure it out. And, and we’re not really here for much else than moral support. Because that’s all it was supposed to be. It was just driving around and, then we ended up having to really roll up our sleeves and get dirty. And, it was probably one of the best nights as crappy as it was, it was probably one of the best nights for our platoon to bond together. So, it was like sharing that story. It was kind of crazy.
KP Phillips 00:54:25 That’s hilarious.
Scott DeLuzio 00:54:28 But anyways, it’s been a pleasure to speak with you today to anyone who wants to check out the Morning Formation Podcast, check out the show notes or go to morning formation.com and check it out there. Be sure to subscribe to it and follow it in everything. It’s really got a lot of great content and, looking forward again, KP to, chatting with you in the future, about other things, maybe have you back on the podcast and we can, we can go into some of those other stories that maybe we didn’t have enough time for today. Yeah.
KP Phillips 00:54:57 Yeah. I’d love to be a man. I’d love to unpack. There’s a lot. There’s a lot that’s going on, anyone out there listening, listening to for career transition. I’m your guy, hit me up and my DMS, whatever you, whatever you want, just get ahold of me somehow, but thank you, Scott, for having me today. I really appreciate what you are doing.
Scott DeLuzio 00:55:15 Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. Thanks for this
Scott DeLuzio 00:55:19 To the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website driveonpodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcasts.