For Philip Johnson Sr. enlisting in the United States Air Force after graduating from Fenger High School on Chicago’s south side was one of many positive decisions he’s made in his lifetime. Philip served in the Air Force as a Munitions Systems Specialist for four years from 1989 to 1993. His travels, friendships and training during his service make him the honorable and respected man he is today.
“I was in the ROTC during high school, so the potential of enlisting into the USAF active duty was a real possibility,” says Philip. “I wasn’t into sports so the ROTC was a good option for me, and my parents fully supported my decisions and encouraged me.”
Because of his ROTC experience Philip was able to enter as an Airman First Class or A1C, bypassing the entry level rank for those with no experience. Philip completed basic training in San Antonio (Lackland AFB), Texas and then went to Denver (Lowry AFB), Colorado where he trained for his job as a Munitions Systems Specialist.
Munitions systems specialists are responsible for maintaining, warehousing, delivering and refurbishing every kind of ammunition used by the Air Force. Philip was part of a team nicknamed AMMO.
“Before enlisting in the Air Force I didn’t have much experience traveling. So simply being able to live in different cities and even outside of the United States was a big deal. I remember going to basic training in Texas and when I got off the plane, I couldn’t believe the overwhelming humidity! It was something that was just unreal.”
After training in Denver, Philip was stationed at Holloman AFB, New Mexico; Kunsan AFB, South Korea, and lastly in Valdosta (Moody AFB), Georgia. His travels within and outside of the United States brought with it meaningful friendships that he will never forget and recollections of other cultures that many will never experience.
“While in South Korea I was able to get clothes made from tailors who would just look at a picture and know exactly how to make it. And I saw men and women working in rice paddy fields, planting and harvesting the fields in knee-high water. It was a sight that you never forget but also never think you’ll see.”
“I am very proud to also have served in the Air Force Honor Guard,” said Philip.
The United States Air Force Honor Guard is a group of high performing airmen who choose to honor fallen and retired veterans in death by serving as pallbearers, conducting the 21-gun salute and being present during interment. Philip’s caring demeanor and commitment to his fellow airmen stood out in this voluntary role.
“My experiences in the Air Force were life changing. I was given opportunities to learn, to travel, to experience new ways of life and ultimately be of service to others. I’m grateful for my service in the Air Force and encourage others to consider it as a way to become educated about the world, other cultures and yourself.”