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Phillips promoted, given farewell

POSTED: March 28, 2011 9:29 a.m.
Denise Etheridge/

3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, left, gives former 3rd ID deputy commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips a plaque after pinning Phillips with his second star during a retreat and promotion ceremony Friday at Fort Stewart.

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Former 3rd Infantry Division deputy commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips recalled the night he first arrived at Fort Stewart, a U-Haul hitched to his car.
“It was pitch black,” Phillips said. “I didn’t know it at the time but I was driving through the ‘green tunnel.’ I thought it would never end; I had no idea where I was.”
That early trepidation quickly melted away for Phillips. The New England native said he fell in love with Coastal Georgia during these past 18 months. The general’s initial assignment was only for a year.
“My service was based on the deployment,” he said in an interview with the Courier on Thursday. His six-month extension here was to help with the “transition” while 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo served temporary duty in Washington D.C., Phillips explained. 
Phillips received a formal farewell Friday afternoon in a retreat at Marne Garden. The Army reserve general also was promoted to the rank of major general, with Cucolo pinning on Phillips’ second star.
“He is a true professional who truly cares for people,” Cucolo said.
Phillips next will serve as assistant deputy chief of staff for mobilization and reserve affairs at the Pentagon.
During the retreat ceremony, two more leaders were welcomed. Col. (promotable) Thomas James will serve as the 3rd ID’s deputy commanding general of maneuver, and Col. Christopher Hughes will serve as deputy commander of support. Hughes and his wife, Marguerite, will live at Hunter Army Airfield.
Phillips arrived at Fort Stewart in late September 2009 to lead the 3rd ID rear detachment while three of four brigades were deployed to Iraq. Phillips said he was grateful to Cucolo for offering him an opportunity to serve Fort Stewart’s soldiers and families.
“My first responsibility was to fulfill Gen. Cucolo’s intent,” he said. The intent, Phillips said, was to preserve and improve the quality of life for military members and their dependents at Fort Stewart. Once he did that, Phillips could strive to enhance aspects of post life he felt needed betterment.
He counts among his accomplishments the development of an adopt-a-school program, strengthened Family Support Groups, and improved food quality and selection in post dining facilities and at Club Stewart.
Phillips said his job was made easier by “great community support,” both on and off post.
“What great hearts our neighbors have,” he said, praising the support civilian communities surrounding Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield give the military.
Phillips specifically credited Ginger Cucolo, the “Marne senior spouse;” Fort Stewart, South Carolina and Cuba school district superintendent Dr. Samantha Ingram; and Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Ashman, whom he called “my battle buddy,” and Ashman’s wife, Wanda, for assisting him during his mission here.
The general said the job afforded him a chance to use all his skills and life experiences.
On occasion, he openly shared with fellow soldiers his past struggle with depression.
“I had something in my own life I was able to convert into a tool,” Phillips said. Talking about his own bout of depression helped him form a bridge with other soldiers recovering from physical or mental injuries, the general said.
“I’m very proud of the way the Army has recognized mental health is as diagnosable, as treatable as physical health,” Phillips said.
He said sharing his story with soldiers at the Warrior Transition Battalion encouraged another young soldier, a survivor of suicide, to pay it forward and tell other soldiers that suicide is not the answer to anyone’s problems.
“He wanted to let soldiers know there is a better way,” Phillips said.
At the retreat ceremony, the outgoing general told the crowd his 18 months at Fort Stewart were “a gift to be savored.”

 

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