CWO-2 Jim Phelps, USMC

For those who have read my book, you may remember there were times—actually many times—where I spoke of Marines with whom I had the pleasure of serving who were marvels. The type of Marine who, when the “boss” absolutely, positively needed something done could be given a mission with no instructions, no guidance, no suggestion, and supervision was impossible—knowing it would be done and done right.

Our Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Officer (NBCO) in 2d Bn, Sixth Marines was such a Marine. He was a Warrant Officer 1 (WO1) when he first joined the battalion, but was later promoted to a CWO2 (Chief Warrant Officer 2). His name was Jim Phelps—a superb Marine who should have been a Marine Gunner, but the Marine Corps had not yet reintroduced that designation into our rank structure. Back then, the only avenue for an infantry SNCO to become a warrant officer was by applying for the NBC warrant program. As his billet called for, he was assigned to the S-3 Shop (Operations Section).

Jim had the innate ability to always pull a rabbit out of a hat. As in the case with all worthwhile warrant officers, he had a special relationship with the second lieutenants in the battalion;—while not “officially” senior to them, he rode them hard and taught them much. Oftentimes they sought Jim for advice when presented with a leadership problem. I admired and encouraged that relationship. Jim and I also had a special relationship—I called him WO, pronounced “Whoa.” He knew it was a sign of my deep respect for all he added to the battalion.

I speak of him often in the book and his ability to repeatedly handle a task that was of great importance to me as the battalion commander, actually it was while deployed, so I was the Battalion Landing Team commander and the Ground Combat Element commander for the Marine Expeditionary Unit (22 MEU). I’ll not discuss those escapades; sorry, you’ll have to get the book to see what he did for me. For those who have my book and want to refresh your memory, I speak of Jim’s magic in Chapter 45, Huxley’s Harlots. I have lost touch with Jim, and I pray that he is doing well. I am sure he went on to much greater achievements in and out of the Corps.

When I left the battalion, Jim gave me a handmade plague that of all my memorabilia, hangs in a prominent place in my “Man Cave,” or as some refer to it, including my bride, my “I Love Me Room.” It explains Jim’s philosophy and his role in the battalion. Enjoy.

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