Brig. Gen. Don Campbell

Brig. Gen. Don Campbell ()

HEIDELBERG, Germany — He’s moved 21 times in his 27-year career, with the help of his wife, the girl he started dating when he was 17.

He favors the fancy, multistrapped boots of the tanker, which he’s worn since he was a captain. He’s surpassed the career achievement of his father and father-in-law, who both retired as colonels, but says it’s his 16-year-old daughter who is practically perfect.

For a man who describes his new job as “behind the scenes,” the frocking ceremony of Brig. Gen. Don Campbell on Thursday was one in which V Corps troops could learn a surprising amount about their new chief of staff.

“A great soldier, warrior and father,” is how the V Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, described him, before helping rip the eagles off Campbell’s collar and placing in their stead the brigadier general’s star.

Campbell, 49, arrived in Heidelberg in June from his last posting at the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Ky. Soon after, he spent three weeks training in Grafenwöhr to take V Corps Headquarters to Iraq.

“It was a great three weeks of working through our tactics, techniques and procedures … and just really forming a team,” he said in an interview after the ceremony. “We’re where we need to be.”

Who’ll be leading the V Corps effort, though, remains unclear. Sanchez has now been V Corps commander for more than two years, and he lead Iraq ground operations in 2003 through 2004. There’s been no word on any command changes.

“I’m planning on going to combat with General Sanchez,” Campbell said. “He’ll be in command until somebody tells us differently.”

Campbell says that among the chief functions of the corps headquarters will be to help train Iraqi security forces to fight the counterinsurgency so that eventually U.S. troops can leave.

“That’s going to be a ways away, and we know that,” he said. “We’re going to be there a year and possibly longer, depending on what our bosses tell us.”

It will be Campbell’s second tour in Iraq. In 2003, he was with the 4th Infantry Division, where he worked first as a brigade commander and then as division chief of staff. It was the first time 4th ID had seen combat since the Vietnam War, he said, and when he first got to Iraq, two months passed before he was able to even talk to his family.

“I’ll certainly miss my family again,” he said. “But we’ll get through it. You understand the higher you go up, the more the Army expects of you.”

Campbell describes his new job as the “behind-the-scenes guy” who makes sure that the commander’s orders, guidance, directives and vision are passed down, as his conduit to the staff, and as a “synchronizer.”

At his frocking ceremony, which is the practice of pinning on a higher rank before the actual promotion date, he thanked the generals and sergeants he’d served with for helping teach him duty, respect, leadership and commitment to soldiers.

But most of all, he thanked his family.

“I’m really sorry it’s just a frocking ceremony,” he said to his wife and daughter. “The pay raise doesn’t come for another few months.”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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