Albert Philip "Phil" Keeler
Albert Philip "Phil" Keeler
Albert Philip "Phil" Keeler

Albert Philip "Phil" Keeler

The military life of AFRH-G Resident Albert Philip "Phil" Keeler

By Dan Ellis | AFRH-G Resident

Albert Philip "Phil" Keeler was born on February 11, 1929 to Merle and Phil Keeler, Sr. in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

In 1947 he enrolled at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut as an Arts and Sciences major.  In his third year he gave up his student draft deferment and served in the Army from 1951 to 1953.  He mustered in at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts and processed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, where he joined the 11th Airborne Division. Prior to receiving basic training, he was sent to the Army Airborne School, more commonly known as Jump School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He had invited his parents, who didn't think he could possibly survive this training, to his graduation. This involved a parachute drop over a landing zone where they were seated in visitor bleachers. To their amazement, he landed practically at their feet.

He was selected to learn and then teach criminal justice.  He taught evening classes as an instructor with the on-post Armed Forces Institute School throughout his time at Ft. Benning.  Since many of his students were senior sergeants and officers, and he was only a PFC, he was allowed to wear civvies during classes.  As part of his curriculum, he had invited members of senior law enforcement agencies as guest speakers, among them, FBI's J. Edgar Hoover and Assistant Director Clyde Tolson. It was during this time nearing the end of his two-year tour that he met Col. Aaron Bank, who had founded Army Special Forces, now commonly known as the "Green Berets."  Unbeknownst to Phil at that time, a new life into unconventional warfare was beginning to form.  He became one of the first members of 10th Special Forces Group in 1952.  When his two-year draft period ended, Keeler then enrolled at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida and in 1954 graduated with a BA Degree.  During this time he observed his commitments with the Army Reserves.

He then returned to the 10th Special Forces Group at Ft. Bragg and resumed his most unusual government career, never wearing a uniform again. It may appear that this is the end of the story of Philip Keeler, but actually he had a new beginning that brought him to all of the world's continents, most of the world's countries, and many of the seaports and port cities. He had been trained in subterfuge and became a NOC.  In Keeler's own words:  "I became a so-called NOC, which stands for non-official cover."  NOC's are recruited from among the military and assigned to work in well-established companies as regular employees. NOCs are the most covert of operatives, working in jobs with no connection to the US Government or the military.  Agents under non-official cover are trained to deny any connections with their government, thus preserving plausible deniability, but also denying them any hope of diplomatic legal assistance or official acknowledgment of their service." During this period, Phil was imbedded with such international corporations as RCA Corp. and Pan American Airways.  Phil led an exciting career while partnering with Col. Bank's Special Forces.  His covert engagement in the military routed him through high tech communications, laying submarine cables on ocean floors, attending the early years of missile launches, and living the life that gave rise to a long list of famous authors including Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Daniel Silva, and Steve Martini. These thriller undercover best-selling books were written about the pursuits of those who had journeyed much like Phil and his comrades. While in the Caribbean, he specialized in underseas data gathering and interpretation.  While in Vietnam, he even assimilated the rank of major, and worked in civilian clothes with MACV Headquarters and other agencies there.

As the Vietnam War wound down in 1974, he was trained as a specialist with the Dektor PSE (Psychological Stress Evaluation device-Truth Verification (or more commonly Lie Detector) which doesn't require wires hooked up to the suspect and is effective with phone calls and even voice recordings. He was sent as an interrogator to domestic and overseas locations where identified military personnel would have been inappropriate. He continued performing covert projects worldwide until his retirement in Florida.

Phil Keeler moved to the Armed Forces Retirement Home on July 18, 2013.  At that time, he had been on a two-year waiting list and had actually moved to Gulfport from Florida a year prior in hopes of getting in sooner.  During that time he served as a community volunteer with the AFRH-G library where he came to know many of the staff members.  By the time of his move-in, he had already befriended many of the residents.  He was active with RAC as a floor representative for five years and is the founder of the AFRH-G computer group that has helped hundreds in learning the electronics of computers, cell phones, and TV connections.