ANN CLAIRE PHILLIPS ' 83
She knows the guided missile destroyer
USS Mustin in a way that few others can:
She was commanding officer when the
keel was laid down at Pascagoula, Miss.,
through the commissioning last year - the
first fenule CO to serve that period on any
She can explain the minor flaw in a
piece of the steel superstructure, and how it's
fixed. She knows the smallest particulars of
complex weapons systems. She microman-
aged the design of the ship's crest, and she
had some "wrong" upholstery redone, too.
Precision, knowing every detail, mattered
especially in Mustin's infancy. Many people
warned Phillips that if the pre-commission-
ing crew didn't succeed, she'd set the ship
up for failure for the first 10 years of its life.
Now at the beginning of the ship's
training cycle, toughness and preparation
matter, even in peaceful horne waters.
Where the untrained eye sees dozens of
pleasure boats passively darting in and out
of the 509-foot destroyer's path in San
Diego harbor on a pleasant summer day,
sailors remember what happened to the
USS Cole - a nearly identical ship.
And on Mustin manners and politeness
matter, too. Crew members who have been
on all-male ships know what you're talking
about wben you ask if there's a feminine
touch on this one. The CO knows all 347
of them by name, knows where they're
from and something about them. On a
tight ship, there is a looseness. Seamen
know that when they encounter her, she'd
much rather they keep working than snap
"My previous XO [executive officer]
said he enjoyed working with me because
my focus was the ship, and not who was
gonna get me my coffee," Phillips said.
In a conversation she bares her frailties.
She is responsible for people's lives, and she
worries about things. She knocks on wood
a lot. She does the fingernails-to-the-teeth
thing, the gesture for apprehension. Phillips
always has been determined - always sure
what she wanted, not always so sure of her-
self. She describes in detail the time she
was in over her head.You have to hear
from others about how she beaded up the
sailing program in Carolina's ROTC unit,
or the way she handled the aftermath of a
the bridge did: "You guys kick ass;' he says.
The CO had, as a matter of fact, kicked
a little of that earlier when things weren't
going so well. But in sum the afternoon
was a big success. Phillips stands quietly lis-
tening. When the others have had their say,
she speaks softly and firmly, not an ounce
of fat in her words.
Then she gets on the horn and in the
same relaxed manner congratulates the
entire ship's crew on their professionalism.
At dinner she dives into the wisecracking
with the perpetually wired lieutenants.
Behind the scenes she has worked hard
to get Mustin a place in a six-week mid-
summer exercise escorting the carrier
Ronald Reagan on its first voyage to its
home port - a warm-up for a big battle
group exercise in the fall. Mustin's crew has
'Capt. Phillips has always been a very humble individual who will then surprise you
in the detailed understanding if a question. She does not push herselfforward and seek gloryfor herself'
Lt. George Kessler
M ustin's combat systems officer
Septe171 ber/ 0 ct0ber 2004