FOR LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Gary Phillips, retired Senior Executive Service member and Army colonel, was presented the Presidential Rank Award in a ceremony Jan. 10 in Marshall Lecture Hall at the Lewis and Clark Center.
Ceremony host Gen. Gary Brito, commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command, emphasized the significance of the award.
“This is a very, very big deal,” Brito said. “This award is such a big deal that less than 5 percent of SES civilian professionals receive the Presidential Rank Award. This award is not given for any one single accomplishment. It is given for sustained excellence in your field over the years.”
According to the Office of Personnel Management website, “the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 established the Presidential Rank Awards Program to recognize a select group of career members of the Senior Executive Service for exceptional performance over an extended period of time. Later, the Rank Award statute was amended to extend eligibility to senior career employees with a sustained record of exceptional professional, technical and/or scientific achievement recognized on a national or international level.”
Recipients are chosen through a rigorous selection process; they are nominated by their agency heads, evaluated by boards of private citizens and approved by the president of the United States.
According to an Office of Personnel Management press release, the “Presidential Rank Award is one of the most prestigious awards in the federal career civil service, and these awards are critical to recognizing the hard work and important contributions of dedicated civil servants in the American federal workforce. The awards — which recognize exceptional performance by members of the career Senior Executive Service and Senior Career employees — reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to supporting the federal workforce and recognizing federal employees who serve with distinction.”
As a member of the SES, Phillips served as senior intelligence advisor, Training and Doctrine Command G-2, at Fort Leavenworth from July 2014 until retirement in 2020.
Brito said Phillips has made significant contributions and gained vast experience, from his commission into the Army in 1974 to his Defense Intelligence Senior Level selection in 2009 and SES position with TRADOC G-2.
“I could read you a long, accomplished bio, but suffice to say that Mr. Phillips, both in uniform early on and as a Senior Executive Service, largely for TRADOC and the operational Army as well, has done just about everything you can do in the intelligence and operational space to make us a better Army.”
Thomas Greco, director of Intelligence, TRADOC deputy chief of staff, G-2, said he nominated Phillips for the award because Phillips was worthy of the elite recognition for his decades of excellence as a leader in Army intelligence.
“As Gary’s supervisor I saw directly how his efforts drove change across the Army and the joint force, Greco said. “He helped lead the Army’s understanding of the threat during counterinsurgency, (and) correctly identified the need to transition to large-scale ground combat that drove change across doctrine, training and leader development. Today he is a professional leadership coach giving back by helping his many clients be the best possible version of themselves.”
Phillips said he was honored to be nominated in 2018 for the award, which was conferred several years later due to the pandemic and other factors.
“The nomination alone, I think, is evidence of admiration for one’s work,” he said. “When a long-serving Army professional receives an award like this, the first inclination (is) to say ‘I did not earn this; this a credit to the fine people who I worked with, and their fine work made this possible.’ While that is true, to a large degree, that ignores the fact that the recipient had to do something and not simply be inert and merely observing all of the activity around them.”
Phillips said the point he wanted to make was that the team, which included him, worked together to earn the award.
“The members of the TRADOC G-2 made me a better person and leader every day. They forgave me my shortfalls, taught me what right looks like, and boosted my spirits when I felt that success was eluding us,” Phillips said. “I hope that I gave them technical direction, leadership, and a feeling of significance and relevance to the mission.”
Phillips said the list of those to thank was long, but he wanted to recognize a few individuals, naming Ron Weaverling, who has since retired but served with Phillips for many years as a senior intelligence officer, TRADOC G-2; and Jon Cleaves, intelligence and operations officer, TRADOC G-2, who also served with Phillips for many years.
“You both gave me sound advice, even when I hated it. You listened patiently when I whined and eventually told me to get over it,” Phillips said. “Thank you for helping me find my best self.”
Phillips also thanked April Rudolph, executive assistant and administrative officer to the TRADOC deputy chief of staff, G-2.
“April, thank you for all you do to make the G2 run so smoothly — so smoothly sometimes no one notices. I will always remember the support you gave me over all kinds of troubles, large and small.”
Phillips ended his remarks with a message for his wife, Debbie, thanking her for her patience and unconditional love.
“She put up with a million TDYs, late hours at the office, and understood that the Army was also a love of my life.”