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SDI Student of the Month: Brianna Phillips

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Firearms have been a part of Brianna Phillips’ life every step of the way, and now they’ll be an even bigger part of her future.

“I was always into firearms,” Brianna said. “I mean, I grew up with my dad and I always shooting. He carries every single day and has for the past 18-plus years. He’s always been a huge firearms advocate, so I enjoyed growing up around them.”

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It seemed only natural to continue along that path. Upon graduating from high school, Brianna enlisted in the army, where she served from 2009 to 2013. Army life was busy, including a year-long deployment to Iraq, and that left little time for extra studying.

“I was a cook in the army. I like to push myself and I like to give myself challenges, but we were working shifts and we were getting maybe five hours of sleep a night sometimes. So I didn’t take many college courses before this,” she explained.

During her deployment, Brianna met her husband, Jesse. They now live in Rock Springs, Wyoming, with their three children, Alex (10), Will (7), and Serenity (3). Her husband had the idea of starting a small business focusing on firearms training and tactical gear. They talked about it for a long time, and eventually decided to start small—no business loans, no store front. They’re proud of how they’ve made Full Spectrum Enterprises happen completely on their own.

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“In Wyoming, there are a lot of hunting and outdoor sports stores, but there’s not a lot of training with tactical gear,” she noted. “We thought that being able to get your hands on certain types of gear would be beneficial because there’s really nothing out here like that. We’ve tried to stay away from loans and borrowing money, and we’ve really tried to bring this up out of our back pockets. We take pride in being able to do everything on our own.”

Full Spectrum Enterprises stemmed from the idea of mindful carry. Both Brianna and her husband are interested in making sure people who choose to carry are equipped with the confidence and instruction they need in order to feel comfortable with their daily carry.

“We’re very into training and making sure that we know what we’re doing every day before we decide to carry a firearm. We always have people asking us ‘Why are you doing that?’ or ‘Why are you carrying that?’ or ‘Why do you have that?’” said Brianna. “Coming from the military, we had to carry our rifles every day when we were deployed. Obviously, now I don’t. So when I started to carry my pistol, I thought about how I wanted training. I wanted to be able to work through tough situations—it was important to me to have that training. And that put the seed into our heads of why don’t we offer that kind of training? I always kind of felt myself pulled towards that.”

In fact, it was during a Full Spectrum training class that Brianna first heard of SDI.

“We were giving a firearms class and one of my husband’s soldiers had come to be a medic in the class. He started talking about how he’s going to school to be a gunsmith and wants to open up a shop back home. So, he was talking about SDI because that’s where he was going,” Brianna recounted. “He said, ‘They send you everything, and your GI Bill pays for it.’ And I thought that’d be really beneficial, not only for our family, for what we do, but also for our business.”

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Because of her background with firearms, the idea of enrolling at SDI also meant she could take care of her own firearms. “I figured, well, why would I pay someone else tons of money to fix my firearms when I could just do that myself?”

Beyond just the allure of a firearms education, Brianna was drawn to the idea—and convenience—of online learning rather than scheduling her family’s lives around a traditional, on-campus experience. While noting that online learning may not be for everyone, juggling school with a small business and three children was more of a viable option than a brick-and-mortar college situation.

“I found SDI. And being online, I wouldn’t have to put the kids in daycare and travel places—things like that,” said Brianna. “It just seemed more beneficial to my schedule and for our family. Online studies would be more feasible than having to physically go to a school and be on campus and having to put the kids in daycare.”

Brianna recently graduated from SDI’s Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate program and is a few weeks away from starting her Associate of Science in Firearms Technology degree program. She’s hoping that her gunsmithing training will lend an even more specialized offering to their local market.

“I have my gunsmithing certificate and that’s kind of what I want to focus on personally,” she said. “I know we have the training options, but I feel like we’ll stick out by offering gunsmithing because a lot of places around here might offer the training or the products we do but not a lot of them offer the gunsmithing.”

Even before enrolling in the Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate program, Brianna had already decided to carry her studies through to the degree program. With some GI Bill ® benefits still remaining, it made sense to go for the higher credential, particularly since having a niche degree in firearms could potentially protect her and her family should they ever want to step away from running their own business.

“I really wanted to get my associate degree so that if I ended up not doing the gunsmithing part (although it would help our family out by having my associate in Firearms Technology), I felt I could get a job almost anywhere that had to do with firearms,” said Brianna. “I just really wanted that education and that knowledge on the background of firearms.”

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As for her time at SDI, Brianna said there are a few things that she finds both fun and useful.

“My favorite part is definitely the hands-on projects and the tools that I’ve been sent,” she revealed. “It’s just been really helpful to be able to actually put my hands on the tools and finish a project. I’m a really big hands-on person when it comes to learning. Also, being able to keep that knowledge and all the books has been great. Every single thing I’ve ever gotten from SDI and all the books are sitting on my shelf above my workbench. And I’m happy to be able to refer back to them if I need to.”

Specifically, Brianna enjoyed her Capstone Project as part of the Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate program.

“I got to do the AR-15 build and that was really fun—not only to have the equipment on hand but to have that knowledge and to be able to go step-by-step instead of just reading it in a book somewhere and trying to imagine how it’d go,” she explained. “It was really helpful to be able to actually finish the project and make the mistakes that I did so I’d know how to correct them and move on from there.”

In all, Brianna is happy she’s chosen SDI and is excited for her next chapter as a student.

“For me, SDI has been probably one of the coolest experiences and one of the most enjoyable programs that I have taken. It’s been beneficial, it’s been knowledgeable, and I’m very excited to start my associate program on July 25. I’m extremely happy with my experience with SDI. And I definitely tell everyone that I recommend SDI.”

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