Florida Polytechnic University police officer Phillip Youngs always goes into a mission with a game plan to survive. He’s not easily scared, and being disciplined has been instrumental to his success in life. These are all traits he says he acquired while serving in the United States Army.
“Some of the things you learn in the military you’re able to apply on the streets,” said Youngs, who grew up in Winter Haven, Florida, and is one of 30 student and employee veterans at Florida Poly.
“I think that makes for a better cop. You’re not afraid of a whole lot when you’ve been in the military.”
Youngs enlisted in 1973 at the age of 19. The Vietnam War was at its tail end and the draft had ended a few years earlier. He still wanted to serve, so he volunteered.
After basic training in Fort Knox, Georgia, Youngs became a combat engineer. He learned to build obstacles for the enemy and remove them for the troops. He was trained to clear out minefields so that soldiers were safer going into a mission, and learned to lay mines and set booby traps against the adversary.
“My job occupation was high risk. You didn’t have a high survival rate in combat,” said Youngs. “But you’re trained to be fearless.”
At the time, the military was sending fewer troops to Vietnam and Youngs was never deployed.
Stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, Youngs applied himself to the military ways and became sergeant in only two and a half years. Later, his father got sick and family obligations made him decide not to reenlist after five years of service.
“I look back and think that under different circumstances, I would’ve made a career out of the military,” said Young. “But my time in the Army allowed me to support my wife as she pursued a college degree. That was our plan.”
Youngs’ success continued as he joined the Winter Haven Police Department in 1984, where he served for 28 years. Not wanting to stay retired, he became a Florida Poly police officer in 2015, and he now enjoys using his broad experience to keep the University community safe.
And although decades have passed since his military days, the lessons learned are never too far behind in his mind.
“I take a lot of pride in my time as a soldier and now as a veteran,” said Youngs. “I made the family proud, and I have no regrets.”
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