April 15, 2021

Above and Beyond

Two A-10 pilots, flying together for the 30th time in Desert Storm on Feb. 15, 1991, attacked a massive formation of Iraqi armor in the deserts of Kuwait.

One pilot, a young first lieutenant named Robert Sweet, survived and became a prisoner of war (POW). The mission commander of the flight, an experienced captain, who lingered above the site of the shoot down for three minutes and 45 seconds—intentionally drawing fire, attempting to help the search and rescue of his wingman, was ultimately shot down himself.

That pilot, Capt. Stephen R. Phillis, received the Silver Star posthumously for his actions that day.

Now, more than 30 years after the incident, a former U.S. Air Force Academy boxing buddy of Phillis, after years of research, is pressing for Phillis to receive a military award more befitting his sacrifice.

“You have a hard time explaining what heroics in an airplane looks like,” said Jim Demarest, a brigadier general in the Florida Air National Guard and himself a veteran of Desert Storm. “Steve’s heroics check all the boxes.”