FORT LEE, Va. — Garrison leaders and members of the Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services team bid farewell to Fire Chief Phillip P. Wilkinson during his retirement ceremony Friday at Fire Station No. 2.
Wilkinson has been the fire chief since 2013. He commemorated his career at Fort Lee and during the rest of his 41-plus years of government service during the ceremony.
“I am very honored to have served long enough to retire a second time,” he said.
During the ceremony, the retiring chief was presented with his fire chief helmet, a flag, a Meritorious Service Medal, a certificate of appreciation and certificate of retirement signed by Fort Leer Garrison Commander Col. Jim Hoyman.
Wilkinson’s wife, Cindy, received a certificate of appreciation and flowers during the ceremony.
“I couldn’t be here without you,” Wilkinson said to his wife.
Wilkinson will miss the people he worked with – the garrison commanders, staff members, firefighters, assistant chiefs and supervisors. He always emphasized empowering the department’s supervisors to do their jobs and be good leaders.
He also particularly valued the partnerships forged with communities outside Fort Lee.
“We not only serve here, but we serve outside the gates as well,” he added. The mutual aid agreements between Fort Lee and the surrounding communities are strong, and the departments provide collective training for one another.
Wilkinson’s retirement Is bittersweet, said Lt. Col. Robin Pinckney, the director of Fort Lee’s Directorate of Emergency Services.
“You have been a great leader, mentor and friend,” she said. “I have learned so much from you.”
She thanked the outgoing chief for his efforts, adding, “I wish you and Cindy the best as you enjoy your retirement.”
During Wilkinson’s career, there were times he felt resistance to change, and had to take on jobs he didn’t want to. However, in retrospect, these situations are opportunities to learn, he said.
“All these things become a part of you and help you later on,” he added.
Even in retirement, many of those lessons are valuable and Wilkinson hopes to be able to continue to share his experience with others.
His immediate goals are to spend more time with his wife and family and to be more involved in his role as an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. He also plans to stay active in the military community near his home in Yorktown and remain involved with Fort Lee as well.
One thing Wilkinson will not miss, however, is the 79-mile commute to work.
Wilkinson’s government service started in the Air Force, when he enlisted in 1980, spending more than 17 years in fire protection and another nine in command and control career fields. He retired in July 2007 as a senior master sergeant after more than 26 years of service.
He became a Department of the Army civilian in January 2008 when he was hired as the fire protection specialist for Installation Management Command – Northeast/Atlantic Region. During this time, he worked with more than 20 garrison fire chiefs. His significant duties included coordinating multiple Base Realignment and Closure issues with garrison leaders as some installations drew down, and some expanded.
During Wilkinson’s time at Fort Lee, the department’s Emergency Medical Services improved their pre-hospital care and transport capability to provide Advanced Life Support for patients. His team also hosted training for tactical emergency critical care instructors, EMS providers and law enforcement personnel during active shooter and mass casualty incidents.
During Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome, he supervised the integration of contracted ambulance services for the allies and fire prevention in additional support facilities used for the mission.