Lincoln County pilot flies C-130 for Air National Guard

January 20, 2004

STANFORD - When he was still a young child on his family's Lincoln County farm, Steven Campbell knew he wanted to fly planes.

"That was from the time he was 5 years old," said his father, David. "It's been his lifelong goal, and he never really even looked at any other career possibility."

Now Lt. Steven Campbell, with the 123rd Air Wing of the Kentucky Air National Guard, flies a really big plane, a C-130 military transport aircraft, and he's been co-piloting his plane in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting U.S. combat operations in those two global hot spots for a good portion of the past year.

But he was back home on his Lincoln County homeplace during the recent holidays, fresh from a stint in the war zones.


His parents, David and Teresa, couldn't have been more pleased.

"We've got our concerns, for sure," said David Campbell, who farms 186 acres near Stanford and serves as a Kentucky Farm Bureau director. "But we realize he's doing what we wants to do."

E-mail provides the only dependable form of communication between the aviator and his family when he's deployed.

"As long as we get that e-mail," his father noted. "It's really the only way we can communicate, because when he's working over there, we're asleep and vice versa."

Lt. Campbell said his most recent tour, which began in early November and ended Dec. 19, primarily involved shuttling combat troops in and out of Iraq for vacations, known in military parlance as R and R.

He and his crew also ferried equipment to the troops. The C-130's can carry up to 60 soldiers and can accommodate motorized vehicles and even small tanks.

"We flew every other day," Campbell noted. "We were actually based outside Iraq and flew in and out of Baghdad, as well as North Africa, Afghanistan, Kuwait and various other stops."

He studied aviation administration at EKU

Campbell studied aviation administration and got his pilot's license at Eastern Kentucky University. After graduation, he applied for a post with the Air Guard, securing one of two slots offered that year from among more than 200 applicants.

Two years of flight training followed, first on small trainer jets, then on the C-130's. He also went through survival training as a part of his preparation to become a full-fledged military flier.

Although he is assigned to an Air Guard unit, Campbell wants to be a career military aviator.

The 26-year-old says the guard has full-time slots and that several pilots with his Louisville-based wing fly planes for United Parcel Service at the same time they're available for military flight duty.

Although he's been in and out of some of the most hazardous and unsecured airports and landing strips in the world, he says his particular plane has never come under fire.

His maintenance crew did great work, he added. Despite landing on dirt strips and encountering harsh conditions on a daily basis, "we never missed a single mission."

Campbell says that when he was growing up, he never really considered following in his family's footsteps as farmers, but that farm life helped shape him in ways that he values today.

"The community spirit in our county is great, and in the summer everyone pitches in and helps everybody else with the crops and the harvest," he said. "It didn't seem unusual at the time, but now I realize just how special that atmosphere was for me."

He says it's a similar situation with the crew assigned to his plane.

"The C-130 is a huge plane, and we all work together to operate it and fly it successfully. We help each other and look out for each other to make sure we accomplish our mission."

Currently, Campbell is undergoing special training awaiting his next assignment to a combat area. But he really enjoyed his time back home over the holidays.

"Our unit is very family oriented," he stressed.

"When we got back, they told us to spend as much time with our families as possible. Because when we're gone we're completely removed and we have no way of knowing when the next call is going to come."

Story and photo reprinted with permission of "All Around Kentucky," official publication of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation.

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