Rick Phillips has had, as he said during an interview, “many highlights” in his long career in the Canadian Armed Forces and then with Personnel Support Programs/Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services.
Mr. Phillips is retired now after an almost 19-year-long career in the CAF and then another 26 years for PSP.
His last day of work as the Resource Coordinator Fitness and Sports at PSP in the Sports and Recreation Centre (Building 90) was on January 27, 2023.
“Rick is a wealth of information willing to help anyone out,” Dawn Redahl, CFMWS Sports Coordinator, said in an email to The Voxair,
“Even though he is retiring, he will be very busy enjoying all his sports and his passion to care for animals. He will be greatly missed and is a true friend!”
Born and raised in St. John, New Brunswick, Mr. Phillips joined the CAF at age 18 right out of high school. “I was in the military July 14, 1979,” he said during an interview with The Voxair on January 18.
When he joined the military he wanted to be a Physical Education and Recreation Instructor (PERI), but you couldn’t join that trade directly.
“You had to have some life skills first,” Mr. Phillips explained.
“They didn’t want an inexperienced 18-year-old doing PERI job.”
After basic training at CFB Cornwallis, his first job was as an infantryman with 1 Royal Canadian Regiment. “I was one of those guys that fired machine guns, anti-tank weapons, rappelled out of helicopters, assault boats across the bay, hand to hand combat,” Mr. Phillips said. “I did it all as a young man.”
He also went on deployments, including to the Golan Heights in the Middle East between Israel and Syria. “You get to appreciate how good we have it here,” he said. “The hatred there was amazing.”
In 1990, he was posted to Winnipeg where he worked as a PERI. “We weren’t specialized like it is today,” Mr. Phillips said.
“We did everything. When I first got here, you could be running a hockey tournament, doing Force testing, leading a PT class. We were well rounded. Everybody did it.”
Then, on April 1, 1997 the CAF eliminated the PERI position and PSP staff assumed sports and fitness responsibilities for military personnel.
So, Mr. Phillips retired from the CAF and moved directly into a similar job as a PSP employee.
He notes that some of the highlights of his career here include the 1999 Pan American Games when the recreation centre was used as a training centre for athletes—boxers, weightlifters, volleyball players and other athletes-- by a number of countries from Latin America.
He also ran Lipsett Hall, the now demolished military recreation facility at 505 Kenaston Boulevard.
“We had the North American Indigenous Games there,’ Mr. Phillips said. “They used the gym.”
Mr. Phillips added that another highlight was hosting the first CAF Women’s National Hockey Championships.
“Life is short and you should be open to change and new challenges,” he emphasized.
“I’ve pretty well done every job this organization has had. There are not too many things that I haven’t run while working here. It has been a pleasure working with everybody. But, I live in the area, so I’ll still be coming to the gym quite regularly and volunteering with PSP.”
You can’t keep such an active person away.