Pyramid Lake Paiute officer promoted, named Nevada Guard provost marshal
Nevada Army National Guard - 106th Public Affairs Detachment
Lieutenant Colonel James Phoenix said his dual military, law enforcement career has “reached its pinnacle.”
“This is where I get to apply all my police experience and military education as a field grade officer,” Phoenix, the Nevada Army National Guard’s recently assigned provost marshal, said during his promotion to lieutenant colonel February 23 at the Office of the Adjutant General in Carson City. “All that stuff is coming together for this new chapter of my life.”
Phoenix’s career spans more than three decades when he first enlisted in the Kansas Army National Guard in 1983. He entered civilian law enforcement in 1990 with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and spent 23 years with the Reno Police Department before he retired last year to join the Nevada Army Guard full time.
“As the new provost marshal for the Nevada Army National Guard, he is the right man at the right time for the job,” said Brigadier General Zachary Doser, the Nevada Army National Guard’s land component commander and presiding official for Phoenix’s promotion. “We've got big plans for him moving forward and I couldn't be more proud of him.”
Phoenix, a graduate of Pyramid Lake High School and member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, said he joined the military largely because of his father.
His father, Albert Phoenix, attended Stewart Indian School in Carson City before he joined the Marines and served in the Korean War and Vietnam War. Albert also spent time as a Marine drill instructor during his 21-year military career.
"My dad was an old Marine drill instructor, but he never yelled at me or anything like that," Phoenix said of his father. "He didn't make me join the military. It was something I decided on my own, but it had a lot to do with him. I can remember marching down that parade field at graduation from boot camp and thinking I made him proud."
The military tradition now extends three generations. Phoenix’s daughter, Kaylea, recently was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the University of Nevada, Reno’s ROTC program.
“It isn’t surprising to see tribal families with deep roots to the military,” Reno-Sparks Indian Colony spokeswoman Stacey Montooth said. “Historically, Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups."
Phoenix credits his parents for instilling pride in heritage: his father is Paiute and mother is Kickapoo.
"(My heritage is) important to me because it makes me think of my old man and mom,” Phoenix said. “As a minority, you can be looked at differently. But, I know, since I was in the Marines, I learned early that it didn't matter. Everyone was the same. You can achieve things like anyone else can. I'm no different than anyone else.”
Phoenix’s career also included time in the Marines (1985-1989) and nearly a decade break in service during the 1990s to focus on his career in law enforcement.
In 1997 he joined the Nevada Army National Guard and served with the 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry as a scout. In 2003, Phoenix commissioned as an officer in the cavalry’s Alpha Troop.
As a commissioned officer, Phoenix served with the 485th Military Police Company first as a platoon leader and then as a company commander. He also served with the 421st Regional Training Institute as a cadre member for the officer candidate school. He also served as the school’s company commander.
Phoenix recently deployed in 2016 to Kuwait with the 17th Sustainment Brigade as a protection officer.
"I have known J.J. since 1979 when we went to Reed High School," said Doser, who officiated Phoenix’s promotions ceremony, and also worked in the Reno Police Department with Phoenix. “We played football during drills...when he lowered his head, he was brutal. The whistle would blow and he would lay me out every single time.
“From high school through my career in law enforcement and the Nevada National Guard, I’ve always known Phoenix to put service before self and the mission first.”
Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Chairman Arlan Melendez was also in attendance for Phoenix’s promotion.
“He’s always been a leader from basketball and other sports, to the military,” Melendez said of Phoenix. “He really comes from a strong military family, starting with his father, Albert, who I knew; this is a very special day for a fine man.”