GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

Military service, tough and proud
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

PEPPERELL — Soldiering is “an affair of the heart” for U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rob Campbell, who is visiting his native Pepperell on leave and marched in the town’s Fourth of July parade.

A combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, he followed in the footsteps of his father, Bruce Campbell, who served 20 years in the Army Reserve.

Campbell’s most recent posting was at Fort Richardson, Alaska, where he was Squadron Commander (Denali 6) of the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry, an airborne ground maneuver unit. He is now preparing for his next assignment, as senior observer controller at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels in Germany, one of the Army’s three elite training centers, providing mock combat situations, complete with villagers speaking native languages.

Along with his team of 45 observers, Campbell will evaluate troops to prepare them for Iraq and Afghanistan.

He started his career in ROTC, receiving his first commission in 1989 as a second lieutenant, infantry. After Ranger qualification, he moved continuously around the globe and up the ranks. He earned his master’s degree and has found the Army to be a great resource for education and training.

Among his postings, some stand out: Hawaii, where he was company commander of the 25th Infantry; Washington, D.C., where he served a three-star general and was exposed to the highest levels of command; and Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served with the famous 82nd Airborne.

But there is no escaping the brutality of combat service. Campbell’s first combat duty was in Iraq in 2006. His brigade lost 59 men. Just last year, his unit lost two of their own in Afghanistan.

“It’s hard on everyone but even harder for the families,” he said. Though his voice and expression remained unchanged, there was no masking the pain as he recalled making phone calls to families.

He has no regrets about his career.

“If you had asked me in high school what I’d be doing now, the Army is the last thing I would have answered,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not without its challenges, especially combat and being separated from my family. But it’s a good life.”

Campbell’s own family has served, as only service families can understand. His wife, Leslie, was his high- school sweetheart at North Middlesex Regional High School, where she was president of the class of 1986 and he was, in his own words, “a punk.”

“I’m incredibly proud of her,” he said. “She never received training or pay to be a commander’s wife, but her contribution is enormous. I couldn’t have done this without her.”

One of her many roles has been to serve as a family readiness adviser. But her first job has been to steer her own family through the relentless changes that are part of military life. The Campbells’ two sons, Robbie, 16, and Louden, 12, have been troopers as well, he said. Though moving is hard and they miss their friends, they are looking forward to the next adventure. Both are Boy Scouts and will attend the Department of Defense School System while in Germany.

Campbell shared a story from a visit he made to Walter Reed Hospital last summer, to pin Bronze Stars on soldiers who had lost limbs. A soldier who had lost a leg was so upbeat that Campbell commented on his positive attitude. The soldier explained that he had been feeling down about his leg until he met a fellow amputee, who had lost both legs and both arms, but who was still grateful to be alive.