Phillip N. Frietze grew up in Mesilla, the son of a U.S. Marine with roots in Southern New Mexico that date back to the 1840s. At an early age, Frietze told his father Neri he wanted to join the Corps.
“My dad is one of my heroes,” said Frietze.
He grew up on the family farm, graduated from Las Cruces High school in 1984 then worked his way through New Mexico State University. He served in the Reserve Officer Training Corps and earned his degree in 1991 before entering the USMC Officer Candidate School.
For the last 29 years Frietze has served in all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, with command and staff assignments at all levels. Earlier this year, Frietze was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and is currently the Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces South, in Florida.
Among his many leadership positions, Frietze has served as Commander, 7th Engineer Support Battalion and Commander, Combat Logistics Regiment - 17, as well as joint assignments with Joint Task Force – North, Northern Command and Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa.
Frietze’s family came to Mesilla in 1845 from Prussia, now part of Germany. Phillip’s great, great grandfather farmed wheat, alfalfa and corn and held several elected positions in the territorial government before New Mexico became a state. The community was small and close-knit.
NMSU is a family tradition, Frietze’s father Neri was an Aggie and his mom Leticia worked in Las Cruces schools. Although Neri set college aside to support his family, he insisted his sons get a university degree.
“All three went to NMSU and all three graduated,” said Neri Frietze. “I said you get your education first, then you have my blessings to do what you want to do. I told all my sons the same thing.” Frietze’s brothers – John, who works for the U.S. Department of Transportation, and James, who retired as a captain in the New Mexico State Police – are also NMSU alumni.
Looking back on his days as an Aggie, Phillip Frietze’s best memory is meeting his wife Kathy, who received her degree in business from NMSU. They grew up in the same circles. Her dad spent 30 years in the Army and retired out of Fort Bliss in El Paso.
“I was not a model student. I was easily distracted,” he said. “But I met my wife and that straightened me out. A light bulb went on and I knew I had to get through. She stuck with me. She’s the best part of me.”
The couple has four children. They have twin girls, one who graduated from Cal State, San Marcos and the other from Arizona State University, and two sons, one who has served in the Army and one who is currently serving in the Army.
After making 19 moves over the years and living in exotic places, Frietze admits he looks forward to eating New Mexico chile when he has the chance, but he misses the community more.
“Besides my family, I miss some of the people I grew up with, people I’ve known for 45 years or more. There is a nuance about New Mexico. We are steeped in history and tradition. It’s all of part of the tapestry. My roots are in the character of New Mexico.”
Frietze believes the way he was brought up, his New Mexico family history and his success in the Marine Corps are all woven together. Hard work, the importance of family and the value of members on his team.
“One of the most crucial things is the ability to truly listen,” he said. “Understand the key elements of what you’re trying to accomplish, don’t be afraid to ask questions and be humble. Humility and gratefulness will help you appreciate what others have to teach you.”
One percent of the people in the U.S. raise their hand and swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and serve in one of the five military branches, in Frietze’s case it was the U.S. Marine Corps.
The views in this article are that of the author do not represent the views of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Marine Corps, or MARFORSOUTH. None of the information in this article should be construed as an endorsement for any particular establishment, venue, or activity.