Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW Craig Campbell has come a long way and gone a great distance since graduating Longmeadow High School in 1970. He graduated from the Reserve Officer Training Program at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma in 1974 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. He's been stationed in Mississippi, California, Michigan and Alaska, and earned a master of arts degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College in Rhode Island.
Campbell is now the Major General and Commissioner of Military and Veteran Affairs for the Alaska National Guard and the Adjutant General for the state. He works directly under Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
"I always had an interest in politics and I always wanted to fly," Campbell said in an interview with Reminder Publications. He never became a pilot with the United States Air Force, but he did serve as an air traffic control officer for 10 years.
"It was an enjoyable hobby to a degree," he explained. "It was like a video game. My goal was to make sure the targets didn't touch," he added with a laugh. It was while he was in this position that he first journeyed to Alaska.
He left the Air Force and joined the National Guard in 1984 so he could remain in the land of the midnight sun.
Campbell became commander of the 168th Resource Management Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base in November 1991 before becoming commander of the Logistics Squadron in October 1992. From there, he became chief of Long Range Planning for the Alaska National Guard in March 1997, executive support staff officer in August 1999 and then the vice commander of the 168th Air Refueling Wing at Eielson in September 2000.
Former Alaska governor Frank Murkowski chose Campbell to be the Adjutant General of Alaska in January 2003, and Campbell said he felt honored to be selected for a "very unique position."
"The position of Adjutant General has been mandated by Congress since 1794," Campbell explained. "It's an honor to be a general but more of an honor [to me] to be an adjutant general."
An adjutant general is the senior officer in the National Guard of a U.S. state.
"The National Guard is important for each state, but active duty and reserves are critically important to the common good," Campbell stated. "The lines [between the two groups of military] have been blurred with large [National Guard] deployments overseas."
He said he originally traveled to Alaska on a three-year tour because he thought the state would be "kind of neat."
"Alaska was very intriguing when I was younger," he stated. "There were real big mountains and lots of land. It was this large, western, wild state."
He added that he liked the state because the people there don't necessarily have ties to the past. "People work hard and get what they want in life and everybody starts on their own," he said. "There are no 'family connections.' It's not about who you know, it's about what you do. People take you for who you are."
An example of that philosophy was when Campbell ran for a seat on the Anchorage Assembly in 1986. He had only been in the area for a few years and he was taking on three opponents for the seat, one being the incumbent and another a long-time resident. After an eight-month, door to door campaign, he won the seat by 21 votes.
"Sarah Palin had a similar story," Campbell said.
He explained that in the chain of command, Palin is the head of the Alaska National Guard, and that he works directly below her. "She is a fantastic boss," he stated. "She and I have a great working relationship. She is easy to get a hold of, she's extremely accessible and she's clear in what she expects.
"What the American people see is who Palin really is," he continued. "I think they'll appreciate the breath of fresh air that she is. When she says she'll do something, she does it. I think that will translate well to the people but not the Washington beltway."
Campbell said she has achieved change in Alaska and he thinks she'll do it again in Washington. "Change will happen," he said.
"Sarah Palin comes along once in a lifetime," he stated. "[What she does] is so new to America and I think they'll love it."