I was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in and attended school in the Bronx of NYC, and enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17 in 1966. During my first 17 years of life, I had the opportunity to develop into an athlete and compete in several different sports including martial arts, but not once did I have an opportunity to touch or learn about firearms. Since then, firearms have played a significant part in my personal and professional life. The Marines provided me the opportunity to get an education, rise through the enlisted and Warrant Officer ranks, and retire as a Colonel in 2000 after a wonderful, exciting and rewarding 34-year career.
I served in the Republic of Vietnam during 1968 and 1969 where I participated in several major operations, including the defense of Khe Sanh during the 1968 Tet Offensive, and hundreds of combat patrols. I was meritoriously combat-promoted twice and awarded the nation’s third highest combat decoration, the Silver Star Medal, for actions as a Platoon Sergeant.
Throughout my Marine career, I was fortunate to have had the privilege to serve in a variety of assignments, especially in the law enforcement, security and corrections arenas, with one third of my career in command assignments. Among my most recent assignments, prior to retiring, were as:
Commanding Officer, Military Police, First Marine Division; Commanding Officer, Corrections Battalion, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California; Chief of Command Security and Chief of Nuclear Security Policy for the United States Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Security Force, Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, Georgia (where I was responsible for the security of a significant portion of the nation’s strategic nuclear triad); Advisor to the Commandant of the Marine Corps on all Equal Opportunity Matters; and Inspector, Marine Corps Bases Japan.
Upon retirement from the Marine Corps, I was hired as the Director of Staff Development and Training, Cornerstone Programs Corporation, Englewood, Colorado, a nationally recognized juvenile services company. I was later assigned as the Director for the eastern region and Director of Camp Kenbridge in Virginia.
I am presently self-employed as a Leadership and Management Consultant and as a Security Consultant. My recent additional activities have included Adjunct Faculty, Leadership Department, Marine Military Academy, Harlingen, Texas; Challenge/ROPES Course Facilitator for Team Leadership Results and other local organizations in Texas (involved in developing teamwork, improved communications, and enhanced performance in organizations); on-call security coordinator for SecurCorp Corporation (involved in providing security expertise on federal and other contracts); substitute teacher, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas; and various civic responsibilities such as Commissioner on the San Antonio Commission on Veterans Affairs; member, Bexar County Veterans Land Committee; volunteer consultant, Executive Service Corps of San Antonio; and board member, Fossil Springs Ranch Homeowners Association.
My passion has always been to make a difference in the community I reside in and I feel privileged to have been recognized by receiving the National Image Meritorious Service Award, the Red Cross Clara Barton Volunteer Leadership Award and the Hispanic Magazine Avanzando Award for lifelong service to community. I am married and have two sons, one daughter and two granddaughters. My academic education includes a Masters Degree in Management from Webster University, a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences Degree (Cum Laude) in Occupational Education from Texas State University, and Doctoral work at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.
My lifelong hobbies have included being a master instructor (7th Degree Black Belt) in Okinawan Karate, long distance running (including marathons), cycling and being a fitness enthusiast. I am active in IPSC, IDPA and other competitive shooting sports. On weekends, one may find me cycling for hours, running, or at the shooting range either experimenting with different hand loads in handguns or long guns, or instructing in firearm safety and tactical uses.
I believe in taking personal responsibility for my safety and that of my loved ones. I have obtained a Concealed Carry license wherever it has been available and will carry wherever it is legal to do so. There is plenty of legal precedence indicating that the police are not required to protect me. To me, this means that I am my first responder. I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and will get involved politically whenever issues affecting our rights as citizens of this great country are at stake. I fully understand that choosing to carry a firearm is an awesome responsibility that cannot be taken lightly by anyone. I understand that there are consequences and possible devastating effects to all parties involved (whether physical, emotional, financial or otherwise) when a firearm is introduced into the mix. I believe that all law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their right to protect themselves wherever and whenever danger threatens.
I understand I am not a law enforcement officer and will not play one in real life. I will assist an LEO if asked or come to the aid of a victimized person when the circumstances are clear that intervention or assistance is needed. I will engage my brain before I engage any tool at my disposal. I will respond (planned), not react (knee-jerk) when dealing with a threat. I will avoid a vulnerable scenario whenever possible, de-escalate when avoidance fails, use the minimum force required when force is called for to stop a threat, and use deadly force as the absolute last resort. From experience, I know that when deadly force is used, all parties are affected or scarred to some degree or another for a day or a lifetime—whether physically or emotionally.
Carry safely. Train until there is significant muscle memory. When an incident happens, it is training or lack thereof that may ultimately decide the outcome. You owe it to yourself, to your loved ones, and to the public at large to train and be as proficient as possible with your chosen firearms.
CCM: Was there a specific incident that caused you to carry a gun?
Phil: My 34-year career as a Marine taught me about the care and proper employment of arms—large and small. There is not one specific incident per se that led me to personally decide to carry a firearm wherever legal; however, several incidents over the years influenced the decision to carry. One such incident that probably had more of an influence than others happened in 1975. My wife, my two young sons, and I were traveling from a Marine base in Virginia to a Marine base in North Carolina to visit my brother (also a Marine) and his family. We were traveling in a 1964 Ford Falcon. Max speed for the car was about 65 MPH. There is a stretch of road along Highway 258 in North Carolina that is fairly deserted late at night. Not many houses along the road and not much traffic on the road after midnight. I had heard that there was a gang that operated out of Kingston, NC, that stopped motorists along the deserted route and robbed them.
I had never experienced any close calls in the area, but I was aware that anything could happen and that I was not traveling in a fast car so I remained alert since it was about 2 a.m. Suddenly, I spotted a car with its bright lights on behind me traveling at a much faster speed than I was. I started playing the “what if” scenarios. The car caught up to me, but didn’t pass me. It appeared the occupants were checking me out. The hairs on the back of my neck were at attention: my wife became concerned, the kids were asleep, I was on full alert. The car with several occupants in it passed me and then I saw brake lights. I did not see signs for an intersection ahead so I knew something was wrong. I decided to stop before they did. They started to block the road in a perpendicular fashion.
By that time, I was already in reverse and moving fast. I saw several people jump out of the car and there were shiny pieces in their hands. I said, “Gee, I wonder what those could be.” They did not shoot, but decided to jump back in their car and turn towards my direction. By that time, I had changed directions, gotten to an intersection, and drove the car into a ditch and out of sight. I saw the suspect car pass the intersection and keep going straight on the highway. I saw it come back. They were obviously looking for me, wondering where I went. We left the car and walked to a nearby house, but received no response. This was before we all had cell phones. We got back in the car and remained quiet. We saw the suspect car, but it stayed on the main road. We stayed in the ditch until daylight. By that time, the suspect car was gone. I managed to get my car out of the ditch and drive the remaining 24 miles to my brother’s house on base.
I was driving by myself this time. A car appeared out of nowhere. This time I was ready for anything.
After arriving at my brother’s house and relaying the story, I found out that one of his friends had not been so fortunate. His friend had been stopped earlier that same night close to the same area and robbed of his vehicle and valuables at gunpoint. I had many close calls in combat, but this was the closest of my calls out of combat. I remember saying to myself that I will never be unarmed along that road again. I kept my promise. A .38 Special always accompanied me after that trip.
A similar incident occurred about six months later. I was driving by myself this time. A car appeared out of nowhere. This time I was ready for anything. First, I was going to ram any car that tried to stop me and then I was going to go on the offensive once outside of my car. Other traffic came into the picture and the other car decided not to take a chance stopping me.
CCM: Have you ever had to use your firearm in a defensive situation?
Phil: I have used firearms, including handguns, many times in defensive situations, but only in combat.
CCM: What training methods do you employ? Do you have any recommendations?
Phil: Practice, practice, practice—with your chosen firearm and equipment. This includes shooting at the range; dry firing and getting accustomed to all of the carry equipment at home; attending tactical shooting courses consistent with personal budgetary constraints where you will go over drills under all perceived scenarios; reading, reading, and more reading about lessons learned; participating in various discussion forums such as packing.org where ideas are shared by persons with a wealth of experience; and participating in realistic shooting scenarios such as those provided in IDPA competitions. Shot placement is everything. IDPA shoots are good, but they should not substitute for the other things above. Ten minutes of quality dry fire practice at home is better than hours of just shooting rounds down range without analyzing what you are doing and making corrections.
CCM: How long have you carried a concealed weapon?
Phil: I have carried concealed in one manner or another for many years. There were times when my job required me to carry. I have applied for a concealed license wherever I have resided where available in the US—whether Georgia, Virginia, Texas or any other state.
CCM: What weapons do you carry?
Phil: I am a die-hard 1911 fanatic and have carried 1911s in one form or another for decades. I have been competing with 1911s for decades, in and out of uniform, and I feel very comfortable with them. These past few years I have carried others in addition to my 1911s. Lately, I have carried several from Sigs, to Glocks, to Rugers, to Taurus. Today, my main carry firearm on most days is a Glock 19. I feel the Glock 19 is close to the perfect balance of size, weight, function, ease of use, and capacity. With today’s premium ammo, I do not feel undergunned with a 9mm. I carry my concealed hammer Ruger SP-101 in my fanny pack when riding my bicycle. I may carry a custom 1911 when appropriately dressed.
CCM: What type of ammunition do you carry?
Phil: I will always carry factory premium ammo and rotate frequently. I have hand loaded for about 10 different calibers (long guns and handguns), but never for carry ammo. Although I know of no case law establishing that hand loaded ammo is more of a liability than factory ammo, I have been to several law enforcement courses where it was drilled into my head that hand loaded ammo is a liability in court and strongly recommended factory ammo. I normally carry either Federal HS, Speer Gold Dot, or Corbon +P. I presently have Gold Dots in my 357s, Gold Dots in my 9mm, and 230 +P Corbons for my 1911s.
CCM: What concealment holsters do you use?
Phil: I use several. I have tested more than my fair share. I have a drawer plus full of holsters. I presently use Blade Tech IWB, Galco IWB, Uncle Mike’s IWB and OWB, Don Hume IWB, Blackhawk paddle, PagerPal, DeSantis Nemesis pocket and SmartCarry. On most days when I’m wearing little, the SmartCarry usually wins out 99% of the time. If I’m wearing a jacket, coat, or long shirt, the Blackhawk paddle may be the choice of holsters. My SP 101 CH in the DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster slips nicely into several of my trouser pockets. I use a fanny pack when riding a bike or going to the gym in workout gear.
CCM: What do you do for a living?
Phil: After 34 wonderful years in the U.S. Marines, whatever I’m in the mood for. Being retired, I have a lot of flexibility. I do some consulting work in leadership and management and in security. I facilitate team building for corporate clients, and I spend time in the public school system. I’m also involved in volunteer community projects.
CCM: Do you have any advice for our readers?
Phil: Take time in picking a carry firearm. Try several. Ensure it fits you. Whatever works for someone else, regardless of experience, may not work for you. Consider your normal wardrobe. Consider weight over an extended period of time. What feels comfortable at the shop for ten minutes may not feel comfortable after eight hours of wearing. Once you have a chosen firearm that “fits” you, practice, practice, practice—at the range with ammo and at home dry firing. Take your time in selecting a holster. Most of us have a drawer full of misfit holsters. Know the law of the jurisdiction you are in. Be a model citizen. Educate others when opportunities present themselves without forcing your views on them. Understand that the choice to carry a firearm brings with it an awesome amount of responsibility. Never violate the basic firearm safety rules and do not accept others around you breaking the rules.