Air Force sets Airman on target

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Tech. Sgt. Kevin Phillips stands still with his sight adjusted, eyes on target and breath held as he pulls back his trigger.

With the trigger in position, he releases and the wind whistles. Less than a second later, a thud echoes across the field as his arrow meets the center of the target. Phillips has begun his daily archery practice at the Eifel Bow Hunter Club in Dahlem.

Phillips has been an amateur archer since the age of nine, but took a break from archery for about six years in his late teens. He always wanted to get back into it and did so shortly after he joined the Air Force, he explained.

The 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainer said the Air Force gave him not only a stable enough lifestyle to support his hobby, but the opportunity to meet and learn from fellow archers as well as the chance to reach his life time goal of becoming a professional archer.

"The opportunity to come to Europe and shoot is amazing and I have the Air Force to thank for that," said the archer, who will compete to become a professional this year.

Here he has shot from platforms rarely seen on ranges in the states such as from the tops of buildings, through windows, out of tunnels and up from inside holes in the ground. However, when the Air Force sent him to his first duty station, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., he ran into unique opportunities as well.

"When I was stationed at Little Rock, I met a gentleman who owned an archery shop in Malvern," he said. "I learned a lot of tips from him as far as how to work on my bows. I wouldn't have been in Arkansas if it wasn't for the military."

He also would not be in Germany as a member of the Eifel Bow Hunter Club, where he currently trains with local archers, if it wasn't for the U.S. Air Force.

"It's nice to have an Airman here," said Thomas Kraus, amateur archer and friend of Phillips'. "I think it's great to give (Airmen) the chance to shoot here and compete."

Thomas said he also enjoys sharing techniques with Phillips and that they have learned a lot from one another. Phillips even helped Thomas pick out and set up new bows for him and his wife.

Phillips and Thomas often train together as Phillips works on his skills to compete in the 5 Nations Field Series tournament, a field archery competition held in Ash, Luxembourg, Aug. 25 - 26. The top three amateur archers at the last stage of this event automatically qualify to compete in the 2013 European Pro Archers Tour.

"The key is to practice, practice, practice," he said of qualifying for the tour.

Phillips practices two to three hours every day, whether rain or shine, to improve anything from flat-range shooting to shooting from angles. He even built an archery range in his attic to practice when the weather is bad.

The main thing Phillips focuses on during practices is form, which he said the Air Force has helped him improve.

"Controlling your breath (when shooting) a rifle is important - it's even more important with a bow," said the Airman, who scored expert on the Air Force's M-16 A2 rifle qualification course. "It's a lot shakier (than the rifle) because you're not supporting it against your shoulder - you support it with your hands and spread your arms out away from your body."

Phillips said archery takes a lot of precision and attention to detail. These qualities go hand-in-hand with the accuracy needed to do his job as a structural maintainer where he must measure aircraft pieces up to thousands of an inch.

"He's very meticulous and detail oriented," said Master Sgt. Louis Urban, 52nd EMS aircraft structural maintenance section chief. "He knows exactly what needs to be done and how to do it."

Phillips said he credits much of his attention to detail on the range to the Air Force and plans to use it at the 5 Nations tournament where he may have to scope targets that have unknown distances and are covered by obstacles.

Urban, his supervisor, said he couldn't be more proud Phillips is showing some of the talent the Air Force has to offer at the 5 Nations tournament.

"I think it's a great opportunity for him to showcase the Air Force," said Urban. "He's an incredibly good shot and I think it's a really good opportunity for him as well because he can step out and compete with people from other countries."

Phillips said support from wingmen like Urban has helped him deal with stress on the range.

"I remember some of the first tournaments I went into; I would shoot really well at home and then I would get out on the range and just blow it," he said. "If you're stressed and you know you're on a good team it helps. To me, my shop is my team. If you know you have good supervision backing you up ... it's a motivating factor that keeps you going."

But Phillips doesn't just receive support. He gives support and encourages others at work and on the range.

"Yesterday he had an Airman in upgrade training," said Urban. "It wasn't his Airman, but he was doing what any good noncommissioned officer should do and gave him training (anyway)."

Urban, who is also an archer, said Phillips' encouragement and help on the range also improved his bow-shooting skills.

"I shot a bow for a good part of my life as a child, but never had anyone teach me the techniques and exactly how to do it," he said. "He walked me through it and showed me how to get things set up. It's been a huge improvement thanks to him."

Phillips said he hopes to see more Airmen on the archery range and he will be there to help them improve their skills.