A Bronze Star and a Purple Heart

If Jophiel Philips JD ’11 had been any closer, he wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale. The U.S. Air Force JAG (Judge Advocate General Corps) captain was blown into the air when insurgents detonated a car bomb at the entrance to his military base in Kabul, Afghanistan in August 2015 — killing six soldiers.

When Philips regained consciousness, the first thing he did was rush to rescue an injured chaplain, shuttling him to safety. Philips returned to fight and helped repel insurgents who continued to attack Camp Integrity with machine guns and suicide vests, during a raging two-hour battle.

“I witnessed the best of America’s best that day,” Philips says. “In the midst of extreme danger, they were called upon to do their jobs and they executed without hesitation.”

As a result of the explosion, Philips suffered a traumatic brain injury, a sprained ankle, and a sprained knee, among other injuries. He was evacuated by helicopter.

Later, he received a Bronze Star for bravery and a Purple Heart because he was injured in battle.

Good people, good lawyers

At Camp Integrity, Philips was part of the legal JAG team that sifted through intelligence to determine probable cause for military action. Now recovered from his injuries, Philips is a prosecutor at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico and advises commanders on the rules of war.

Law Professor Robert Talbot, who teaches evidence law, describes his former student as talented, persevering, ethical, and willing to take on the difficult assignments. “Jophiel exemplifies the type of student that succeeds at USF,” Talbot says.

Philips chose the USF School of Law because of its track record for producing good people who are good lawyers — an important distinction from schools that just focus on producing good lawyers, he says.

“USF taught me the importance of understanding the human element and story behind every legal issue,” Philips says. “As a JAG, I never lose sight of the people who will be affected by legal action that I take and that has taken me a long way.”