New chief of staff relishes role in security enterprise

By Adriane ElliotSeptember 24, 2015

USASAC Chief of Staff Col. Phil Chambers
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

A love for adventure and the great outdoors propelled USASAC's new chief of staff to Army service.

Col. Phil Chambers spent his childhood hunting and fishing Montana's mountains and lakes, before graduating from Montana State University (Bozeman) and earning a commission from the ROTC.

"I knew I didn't want to spend my life sitting behind a desk," he said, "so I was looking for an outdoor job. In the Army, I got more of that than I sometimes wanted."

But it has been without regret. Chambers said his military career, from the beginning, has been a joy despite the challenges.

"There are a lot of sacrifices involved, it can be a tough life, but the impact you make in the world is worth it," he said. "You join this great profession of arms, and as you develop and learn your craft, there are great Soldiers, leaders and mentors along the way that make sure that you are successful. As you get further in your career, you become that experienced leader, who finds ways to mentor and pass along lessons to the next generation of leaders.

"And when you start to see those young Soldiers and leaders making a huge impact in the Army, that's probably the most satisfying thing for me -- passing it along. That's the best part of service, that's what service is -- it's all about the people."

Chambers holds a master's degree in public administration and another in strategic studies. He was commissioned in 1989 and has served assignments in Germany, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort Benning, Georgia, Egypt, Montana, Italy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Idaho and Fort Polk, Louisiana. Some of his most recent jobs were as a cavalry squadron commander, G-3 and JRTC Task Force senior observer, coach and trainer.

Chambers came to Redstone Arsenal from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he was the deputy program manager for the Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program.

He said his role at OPM-SANG was an amazing opportunity to see the real-world impact of the USASAC mission, and it prepared him to serve at Redstone Arsenal.

Chambers said USASAC employees working in the rear, in cubicles, may lose sight of the long-term impact they have in the world. But he has seen firsthand how these employees are affecting the course of U.S. military strategy, regional and global political affairs.

"The hard working individuals at Redstone Arsenal are doing great work and dedicated to the mission, and that is what gives forward deployed members abroad the confidence to physically look our foreign partners in the eye and make those agreements, knowing we're going to make good on those promises," he said.

"It's something we can't take lightly, whether you're that person working the desk from Huntsville or you are downrange, especially now when some of our partners are engaged in combat. There must be a sense of urgency when lives are on the line."

Chambers said he is looking forward to continuing to support the USASAC mission from the rear and plans to focus efforts on maintaining and improving, wherever possible, an "already well-run operation."

"I'm going to assist the CG with maintaining the positive momentum that he has created. One of my priorities will be to look at our staff processes and staff structures to make sure they are aligned to support mission execution; this will allow us to more efficiently support our customers," Chambers said.

Another priority, he said, is to maintain and reinforce the level of trust throughout the organization.

"I see that there is a high level of trust that supervisors are going to address employee concerns. I want to reinforce that trust and help ensure supervisors have all the support necessary to be successful in addressing their team members' concerns."

Having said that, Chambers also urges employees to be patient and give leadership an opportunity to resolve issues.

"We have to give the system a chance to work; have faith and confidence in the chain of command to work for you," he said. "It may take some time, but it is obvious to me already that the chain of command cares about the employees in the command."

So far, he said he is very pleased with the level of expertise at USASAC.

"I found out quickly that there are many very talented folks here who are getting after the mission, moving out quickly and doing great things in their areas of expertise."

Chambers described himself as upbeat, attributing this trait to lessons learned as he worked with great Army leaders throughout his career.

"They taught me the power of positive leadership, maintaining a good attitude and never making things personal," Chambers said.

As far as the workforce, he wholeheartedly believes that every employee wants to contribute and be part of a winning team.

"People don't come to work to screw up; they just don't. And if you look at the workforce with that assumption, you can reasonably assume that there are no bad employees, but rather leadership challenges in helping employees reach their full potential," he said. "Maybe there's an employee who's working in an area where he or she is not strong. Well, let's figure out how to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. You can always find a way for someone to contribute to the team, and I try to live that."

Chambers has made positivity one of the cornerstones of his leadership for many years because he has seen the consequences of working in a negative environment. He described units in which a highly proficient, yet negative, leader found it nearly impossible to motivate Soldiers.

"And I've seen leaders who weren't necessarily the best tacticians or trainers, but they were positive leaders, and their Soldiers would do anything for them. People will jump on their swords for the guy who is a good listener and genuinely cares," he said. "And, believe me, people know when you don't care. It's not something you can fake. People will figure you out."

Chambers said his favorite and most challenging assignment was as a task force commander in Afghanistan. Commanding an 800-person task force, coordinating with the governor of the province and leading people into combat was an enormous responsibility but, like every other assignment, it prepared him for his next big challenge.

While he said it's too early to think about retirement, he knows he does not want to live in a cold climate. Chambers said after the military he'll make his way to warmer weather and try to improve his fishing and golfing skills, and spend more time with his family.

He said one of his greatest accomplishments throughout his military career was to maintain a sense of normalcy for his family, trying to spend as much quality time with them as possible.

"If there is time off," he said, "that's family time."

Chambers is married to the former Beth Norman of Kennesaw, Georgia. They have three sons and one daughter, ranging from age 23 to 10.