Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Scientist Professional Advisory Committee

Reporting for Duty (2018)

By CDR  Kenneth Phillips

Food and Drug Administration

 My wife and I had adopted a baby boy and were in Florida for two weeks awaiting permission to leave the state when we received the call about a potential deployment to Hawaii in response for Hurricane Lane. Although the call came just as we had rotated from being on call to off call, I debated whether to respond as available. Fortunately, Hurricane Lane steered away from Hawaii, and I quickly settled back into newborn bliss with my son and wife. We returned home to Maryland about a week later and immediately heard the news about another potential deployment in response for Hurricane Florence. Then I received the email from our team Commander that we were officially on alert. I debated whether I should inform my team that I was not available. I believe that it is our duty and mission to respond when we are needed. So when the official call came, I prepared my deployment bag anticipating further instructions and the chance to deploy with my team for the very first time.

 But inside I was torn. Our son was barely four weeks old, and I really wanted to be there with my wife to enjoy this time together with our newborn son and help care for him. I counselled with my wife, and she encouraged me to go, reassuring me that she understood this was a part of my job and our mission as Commissioned Officers. Having her blessing meant the world to me. She is a very capable teacher, a wonderful wife, and a loving mother to our two children. Although I knew that it would be a big sacrifice for her, she reassured me that she could manage and would have strong support from our church community. My management at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was also extremely supportive. I decided to confirm my availability, because it’s never convenient to leave our family and daily life routine, just as there’s never a good time for a natural disaster.

 Deploying with my team has been an amazing experience. The team works so well together that you know you are part of something greater than yourself. All of these officers are incredibly talented and knowledgeable, yet humble and caring. Each one brings special skills and gifts to our mission. The compassion that they show for patients, the professional excellence, and the hard work that they put in under harsh conditions and without complaining are truly inspiring. There are a number of other officers like myself on this deployment who have babies and young children at home and have sacrificed much to come serve the people of North Carolina. I am looking forward to getting back to my family as soon as my mission is done. But when the next crisis comes, I will be ready, whether on call or off. Rapid mobilization to bring medical care and compassion is not just a job, it is a vocation.

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