Taking Charge of Your ANG Officer Career

  • Published
  • 158th FW

By Tech. Sgt. Garth Dunkel

Kicking off in July of 2018 and commencing on June 5, 2019 U.S. Air Force Maj. James Philbrook, the recently appointed director of operations assigned to the 158th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 158th Mission Support Group, 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Quantico, VA, where he successfully earned a Masters of Military Studies degree.

The Marine Corps’ Command and Staff PME (professional military education) compounds a typical two-year master’s program into an intensive 11-month timeframe. During Philbrook’s residency, he researched, authored and defended his State Partnership Program (SPP) thesis amongst his field-grade peers from across the U.S. military.

“After 26-years in aircraft maintenance, I’m not only interested in going elsewhere within the Wing, I’m interested in the SPP as it has a very Army-centric course of action,” said Philbrook.

The Vermont National Guard leadership supports and welcomes the mutual relationships with their partner countries of North Macedonia and Senegal. Initiatives such as these cooperatives are valuable because they promote continued relationships that solidify alliances where some date back to 1993.

The State Partnership Program is a joint Department of Defense program managed and sourced by the National Guard, a collaborative that is less familiar to active duty counterparts. 

“A lot of the active duty components know little about the State Partnership Program and anyone I spoke with there (at the Command and Staff College), to include the professors and the civilian staff, had not heard of it,” said Philbrook.

“I would like to participate in the SPP, at some time, in some capacity. So, I figured the best thing I could do is attend a joint PME and that would give me some kind of exposure because there was every branch of service attending the Marine Corps one,” said Philbrook.

Commissioned officers, regardless of branch of service, must successfully complete PME coursework to become eligible for their targeted rank and grade. Philbrook was one of a student body of over 200 officers which were divided into groups of 14 to 16 students to discuss, examine and debate an array of topics that usually stemmed from a vast list of reading materials and lectures.

With his SPP focus of study, in conjunction with Quantico’s Command and Staff caliber of PME, Philbrook’s recent educational merit is likely to see a return on investment because it is localized to the Vermont National Guard.

“We’d have very detailed discussions about what was said: ‘Do we believe them? Should we believe them? Is there a counter argument?’ You're immersed in critical thinking. Through a lot of reading… daily… you get exposed to countless things you were not exposed to before,” said Philbrook.

Philbrook’s joint PME experience provides insight to the educational requirements each leader must fulfill in order to promote within senior ranks of the U.S. Air Force. Additionally, he conceptualized a plan as to how he envisions the next chapter of his career in a field-grade leader capacity as a viable Lieutenant Colonel candidate. Congratulations Major Philbrook!