FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan –
“I learn every day that we’ve got a lot to be thankful for back home,” said Master Sgt. Chris Campbell, a 41-year-old native and resident of Nicholasville, Ky. “We have a lot to be thankful for as a nation, actually.”
Campbell, who spent four years apiece with the Navy and Navy Reserves before serving in the Kentucky Army National Guard for the past 15 years, is a soldier assigned to the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4. As a member of ADT 4, he serves as Project Manager for the Kandahar province’s Zharay and Maiwand district teams.
“At the same time, we have a lot of responsibility, not only as Americans, but also as soldiers to be good stewards,” he said. “Our mission is really tied in with that focus of being good stewards. We need to make sure that we do the right thing, the right projects, and we don’t waste money.”
Back in Kentucky, Campbell is a combat engineer with Madisonville, Kentucky’s 130th Engineer Support Company, 206th Engineer Battalion. He previously deployed to Kuwait from 2004 to 2005 with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 206th Engineer Battalion, which was then based out of Harrodsburg, Ky. The 206th has since been relocated to Owensboro, Ky.
As a civilian, Campbell said he has worked as a lieutenant for the Nicholasville Fire Department since 1997.
“I don’t have too much civilian experience, I need to use here, because usually that means someone’s in trouble,” Campbell said. “But it has helped. I think that Guardsmen in general are kind of a different breed. That helps to facilitate the mission, because there’s folks on our team that have many skill sets, and we use those.”
“Patience is a big thing that I’ve learned through my military career. I’m not the most patient person, but I understand here, I’m not only dealing with the Army and contracting side of it, but also dealing with Afghans and how they perceive life,” Campbell said. “Patience has been key. That’s something the Army has kind of helped me learn.”
Campbell described what Afghanistan has been like so far.
“It’s kind of what I expected it to be. But it’s something that you can’t really appreciate till you get here or actually see it with your own eyes,” he said. “So it’s been interesting.”
“You know, I think it surprised me, just the attitude of the Afghans that we’ve dealt with so far,” Campbell said. “A lot of them are really good people. And I think I might have perceived them a little bit differently because of our training regimen. The fact that we’ve been working with them and had the opportunity to have a close relationship with some of these folks, I think it’s helped. And it surprised me a little bit, but it’s also been very rewarding,” he added.
There have been some challenges so far, both personally and as a unit, as Campbell described them.
We’re an enabler, not a battle-focused (unit), as far as we don’t go out there and shoot folks. That’s not our job,” he said. “We’re an enabler for the Army in order to reach out to the agricultural community and kind of help those folks.”
“I think the first challenge for everybody was the same, trying to get used to this new hodge-podge kind of unit thrown together, get used to everybody,” Campbell recalled. “Also, coming over here and working with a combat arms unit, I think that’s been a challenge for all of us. It’s been something that we’ve kind of had to get adjusted to.”
“The only difference I see that’s more sobering is the fact of being closer to the front line, I think,” Campbell said. “It’s more challenging. You go into some of these TOCs (tactical operations centers), these other units, and you see the pictures on the wall of soldiers like our own that have died here doing their mission.”
“It’s sobering…I’m very humbled by that.”
For most of Campbell’s family, this is their second time dealing with him being gone.
“It’s been difficult. My wife kind of knew what to expect,” he said. “My youngest son, who’s 6 didn’t. So, it’s been troubling for him. My teenagers, they went through it as children, but it’s hard for them too. I think it causes more stress than what I know.”
“My oldest son, he actually joined up into the National Guard, joined while I was gone. I think it affected him to the point that I think he decided he wanted to try and serve too. I’m thankful for that,” Campbell added.
Thinking about ADT 4’s ability to make a difference in southern Afghanistan, Campbell looked towards the future.
“I think we will, but I don’t think it’s something that’s going to be readily apparent in any of our lifetimes,” he observed. “I think the influence that we have here with these folks is going to stretch out over into the little kids that we see now.”
“When they become adults, and they’re running this country, that’s when we’re going to see that influence…it may not be that they are a democracy, but it may be that they are able to sustain their families better,” Campbell said.
“Maybe this country won’t be one of the poorest in the world, but it may be a developing economy where they can do something for their children,” he hoped.
As the old saying goes: only time will tell.