By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD — Like many young officers, he contemplated getting out of the Army.
He was interested in law school before he even started ROTC and that looked like a possibility as he and his wife considered life after the Army.
The captain was coming out of his first command and headed to the advanced course — not a typical route for officers, but not an atypical one, either.
It’s a point when many decide to get out or stay in, he said last week at Fort Hood.
He and his wife sat down and talked about it. They liked the life. They liked moving. They liked the opportunity to serve. They decided to stick it out, he said.
Thirty-three years and 23 moves after a commissioning ceremony at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr. came to Central Texas to take command of III Corps and Fort Hood.
He and his wife, Ann, were welcomed back to Fort Hood during an April 21 ceremony.
He followed now-Gen. Robert Cone, who took command at the Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., a little more than a week later.
Campbell most recently served as the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.
Back to Texas
This isn’t the Campbells’ first assignment at Fort Hood. He assumed command of the 4th Infantry’s 1st Brigade in June 2001, according to information from the Army, later advancing to serve as the division’s chief of staff until June 2004.
The Campbells and their son and daughter lived in Belgium before coming to Fort Hood in 2001 and loved the international community. Ann joked last week that she came “kicking and screaming” to Fort Hood. It was the middle of summer when they moved and it was quite a transition after living in the mild European climate.
“Where have you brought me?” she said she asked him.
The Campbells ended up “absolutely loving” their time at Fort Hood, Ann said. They got out and met people at Fort Hood and the community, and she came to realize more than ever that it wasn’t always about the place, but the people.
Ann was “very, very happy” when she found out she was coming back to Fort Hood.
Don was excited to come to Fort Hood — the “mecca of armor” — 10 years ago. He was commissioned as an armor officer.
He “tremendously” enjoyed his time at Fort Hood and getting the official call in mid-January from the Army chief of staff telling him he was the next III Corps and Fort Hood commander was a “very pleasant shock/surprise.”
The general had a variety of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command jobs for almost three years and now he was getting a chance to lead a corps and post.
“It really was something I was genuinely excited about,” he said.
He was excited about things to come when leaving Fort Hood in 2004, but knew he’d like an opportunity to come back some day. To have that come to fruition was exciting, he added.
The relationships the Campbells built with local and regional leaders remained even 10 years later. Coming back and finding those ties still strong was certainly something, the general said.
Influences from fathers
Don grew up as a typical Army kid, bouncing from post to post with his father, a career officer. The family ended up at Fort Riley, Kan., the summer before Don’s senior year of high school.
Ann was walking her dog on post one day when she saw a cute guy playing football. Her friend knew the guy because their families were stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., before and introduced them a few nights later.
Their fathers were battalion and squadron commanders together at Fort Riley, and Ann also grew up in the Army.
Don was going to go to college down the interstate at the University of Kansas, but decided on Kansas State so he could come home on weekends to see her. He figured 20 minutes away was better than 90 minutes.
Then, as often happens with the Army, a move took her to the East Coast just before Don started his sophomore year. They dated for five years — three of those apart as she went to college in Maryland. He proposed the second semester of his senior year and they got married in 1978 after he finished his officer basic course.
Ann knew Don was for her after the first six months to a year of dating. “We just felt like we were soul mates,” she said. “We just never looked back. He was always the one.”
She said she never thought about marrying or not marrying a military man, but the Army was the only life she knew and she loved her dad.
“So why not marry a soldier just like my father,” she said.
Both fathers influenced the general, he said. He always looked up to his father, who retired in Florida, and thought of him as a role model. He wasn’t someone bigger than life “because he was dad,” but he was doing something important: serving his country and making a difference, Don said.
He started his career knowing that even if he didn’t serve as long as his father, he wouldn’t mind trying to be something like him.
Watching his father and Ann’s father lead was a unique opportunity for Don. They had different leadership styles, but were both strong, successful professionals.
They had more of an influence on his decision to stay in rather than to get in the Army.
The oldest of three brothers, the middle Campbell brother also joined and retired from the Army.
Ann is a teacher by profession and didn’t realize until her daughter asked her questions for a school project that she still is in her role as a senior Army spouse. She may not be teaching in an elementary school classroom anymore, but she is “showing the younger spouses the way,” she said.
The Army is a different life with his own lingo, she said, and she hopes to lead other families along the path and show them what right looks like, being there for them like a teacher would be for her students.
She encourages Army families to spend quality time together.
“Family is everything,” she said.
She also encourages families to take advantage of the Army’s abundant services and programs. Don’t wait for them to be presented — seek them out, she said.
The Campbells’ repeated moves sent their daughter to three different high schools and their son to two different high schools. The general said the frequent change made them more tight knit.
“The military does force you to come together sometimes,” he said.
Military kids adapt easier, Ann said. Don agreed, saying they tend to have more rounded life experiences.
Now that their kids have graduated from college and are spread across the country, the family uses technology like Skype to stay close. Don and Ann are grandparents to a toddler and are getting used to life as “Nona” and “Papa.”
“It’s awesome,” Nona said.
“We love it. We absolutely love it,” Papa said, adding that watching his granddaughter grow is one of the coolest things in which he’s ever participated.
For more on Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., including what he said are challenges facing Fort Hood, read this week’s Fort Hood Herald.