By David Pittman –
Married Colonels Serve Country and Focus on Family
They are literally the predominate power couple in all of Tucson and Southern Arizona, but most people here know little to nothing about them.
Meet the Colonels Campbell, a powerful force at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base:
• Col. Scott Campbell, 43, is the installation commander at D-M and also commands the 355th Fighter Wing, the military unit that operates the A-10 jet aircraft at the base. He is a command pilot with more than 3,200 flight hours in various jet aircraft. Like his wife, he has flown in support of Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
• Col. Kim Campbell, 41, is commander of the 612th Theater Operations Group and the 474th Air Expedition Group, which provides oversight and administrative support for U.S. Air Force operations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. She is a senior pilot with more than 1,600 hours in the A-10.
How does a married couple rise through the ranks of the military to such a high level? It isn’t easy and few have done it. It takes courage, commitment, mental toughness, loyalty, patriotism, obedience and sacrifice – lots of sacrifice.
The high-ranking duties the couple have today require frequent travel to faraway places. “One week I’m going to Turkey and she’s preparing to leave for Guantanamo Bay,” Scott said. “Then she’s traveling to Honduras and I’m planning a trip to Capitol Hill. My front office is constantly trying to balance our schedules.”
The Campbells said their marriage has provided one huge career benefit: They each have access to the other’s knowledge and counsel on professional leadership and military matters.
“Each of us understand the other’s job and the difficulties and challenges of command,” Kim said. “It’s easy to bounce things off one another because each knows the stresses of command and the circumstances the other is facing. When you get to this rank, it’s nice to get home at night and have a sounding board for tough decisions.”
The Campbells were married Sept. 18, 1999. However, during the first five years of their marriage, with the exception of one month in 2002, the couple lived apart and saw one another for only brief periods at a time.
“We’ve spent a lot of time apart, so we’ve learned not to take our time together for granted,” said Kim. “Couples with demanding jobs in the civilian world probably experience that as well. But the unique part about the military is deployments, and you don’t always have a say in where you’re going.”
“Most commanders didn’t want us to be deployed together,” said Scott. “It goes back to WWII when three brothers serving in the Navy were all killed on the same ship at the same time.”
Scott and Kim met at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and became friends. Scott graduated in 1995, Kim in 1997. “We didn’t date while attending the academy,” Scott said. “We started dating after she graduated.”
Upon leaving the academy, Kim attended graduate school at the University of London, while Scott completed his A-10 pilot training at D-M and was assigned to Pope AFB in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
After two years of long-distance dating, which included extensive old-school letter-writing and several trips across the Atlantic for both, the relationship evolved into a long-distance marriage. Days after the couple’s wedding, Scott was deployed to Kuwait and was flying missions as part of Operation Southern Watch.
The Campbells were finally stationed together in January 2002 at Pope Air Force Base. But they lived together for only a month before being separated again. The couple served in different A-10 squadrons that were alternately deployed to the Middle East.
“We were together in January and I was deployed in February,” Scott said. “When I came home, Kim was deployed.”
Their squadrons traveled back and forth between Afghanistan and Iraq. They saw one another for only short periods of time. “There was one seven-month period when we spent only five days together when we overlapped in Kuwait,” Kim said.
Through all their combat missions, the closest either came to the ultimate sacrifice occurred April 7, 2003, the day the A-10 Kim was flying over Baghdad was hit hard by a surface-to-air missile that put some 300 holes into the jet and sent shrapnel into the aircraft.
“The weather was not good, so we descended below the clouds to better see the target area,” Kim recalled. “Our guys on the ground were taking fire from the Iraqi Republican Guard. We made a couple passes and decided to get above the weather and reassess things. I had shot some rockets and as I came off target I felt and heard a huge impact at the back of the jet.
“I immediately lost all hydraulics. In the A-10 the hydraulics is what controls our flight system. But we do have a back-up system called ‘manual reversion.’ I switched that over and was able to get the jet flying again. But there was a good few seconds where the jet wasn’t responding, I wasn’t climbing and I looked down at Baghdad and thought, ‘I might have to eject.’ ”
Kim emerged unscathed from the A-10 after turning it around, flying another hour and landing it in Kuwait. For her actions that day she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Finally, in 2005, the Campbells were in the same place at the same time for more than a few days. They were stationed at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, where they lived together for three years. Scott described their time at Nellis as “the perfect setup.
“I taught at the weapons school and Kim was assigned a position in the A-10 Test and Evaluations Squadron,” he said. “Neither of those units was deployable and we had a home together.” Minus deployments, which have been many, they’ve been together ever since.
For a year starting in June 2008, the couple was at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where they attended the Army Command and General Staff College. It was there that their first child was born. The Campbells with their infant son spent three years at D-M from June 2009 to July 2012 serving as commanders of two different A-10 squadrons.
“While we were here at D-M, I deployed for six months to Afghanistan when our first son was about one and a half years old,” Kim said. “Scott had just taken squadron command.”
“It was a challenging time,” said Scott of his stint as a single parent and new squadron commander.
When the Campbells’ second child was born, the situation was reversed.
“Scott was deployed for a year when our second son was born and I had the two kids by myself and was working full time. That was tough,” Kim said. “But this is something military families do on a regular basis.”
The couple’s two boys are now ages 8 and 4.
“We couldn’t have gotten where we are without help,” Kim said. “Nannies, friends, co-workers and family have bailed us out in getting through some of the tougher times of deployments – or as we call it, ‘single-parent ops.’ ”
Both Kim and Scott said their biggest priority today is keeping their family together.
“We’ve had friends that have gone through the same situation we are in and some reached the point where someone had to step aside,” said Scott. “Our number one concern is what’s best for our family.”
“Our kids are very young and we want to make sure we’re available for them,” Kim said. “This has been our career for a long time. We’ve always decided we’d take things one assignment at a time because it’s stressful to look too far ahead.”