FORT LEE, Va. – From Army tank platoon leader in the ‘70s to his culminating Senior Executive Service position with the Defense Commissary Agency, there are many highlights in the 48-year working career of Rogers E. Campbell.
Out of all he has achieved, though, he said none of it stands out more than events of the past two years while steering the Store Operations Group through the coronavirus pandemic.
“I feel the most significant thing I’ve done is leading 11,000 people – U.S. and local nationals – through the uncertain and challenging demands of COVID-19 with the support of our headquarters leadership,” Campbell reflected. “It was my privilege to be in charge of Store Operations, and it was, and still is, a very stressful period of time.”
The greatest challenge, he said, was the first six months of COVID when commissary teams had to react to variances in base access policies and safety protocols as leaders of different installations and military services responded to the threats specific to their area.
“With all this confusion, and at great risk to themselves, I was so proud at how our store employees conducted themselves,” Campbell said. “With all that was going on – children out of school, employees on quarantine – our people delivered the commissary benefit designated ‘mission-critical’ during a crisis when our patrons needed it most.”
Campbell retires Jan. 31. Ronald K. Hurt, director of store support and deputy to the Store Operations Group executive director, will be the acting executive director. DeCA will recruit Campbell’s permanent replacement in accordance with DOD policy pertaining to SES positions.
Campbell became an executive director in March 2019, charged with managing and directing tactical store support for DeCA’s nearly 240 commissaries configured under 25 field zones in 46 states, 13 countries and two U.S. territories.
Bill Moore, DeCA director and CEO, spoke highly of Campbell’s service to the military and their families, especially during the pandemic. He was awarded the DeCA Civilian Career Service Award during a headquarters ceremony Jan. 28.
“Our stores are on the front lines of this pandemic, and Rogers’ stellar leadership … has allowed us to fulfill our critical mission to provide the products our customers desperately needed during this outbreak,” Moore said. “His professionalism and dedication served us and our military community very well. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life.”
Before entering civil service and joining DeCA in 2010, Campbell worked for more than 30 years in the private sector, holding positions associated with selling and marketing various consumer goods. Upon appointment to DeCA, he entered the Senior Executive Service and took charge as director of the agency’s then East Region before advancing to be executive director of the Sales, Marketing and Policy Group in 2011. In that position, he oversaw directorates responsible for the agency’s sales, marketing, policy, health and safety, and business development.
Campbell sees the future success of the commissary benefit linked to its ability to employ new technology and innovative ways of doing business.
“We have to embrace new modalities like big data mining to better identify who is shopping, why or why not, what they want and how we can better serve them,” he said. “Commercial retailers are using big data more, loyalty cards, home delivery and supply chain innovations to employ cutting-edge sales/merchandising tactics. Under Mr. Moore and his senior leadership team, I’m confident we are poised to do likewise and better serve our military community by expanding commissary usage.”
Campbell’s connection with the military began as an Army armor officer from 1974-77, serving as a tank platoon leader at Fort Hood, Texas, and later in Stuttgart, Germany.
After the Army, he worked in various corporate marketing positions including managing partner of Marketcorp International, a brand strategy consultancy; senior director of marketing for Nabisco Foods Group; and director of global new products for Schering-Plough Consumer Healthcare. He began his consumer-packaged goods career in brand management at General Mills.
In 2004, he began his connection with military resale when he became vice president and chief marketing officer at Overseas Military Sales Corp, where he was responsible for the marketing, sales planning and merchandising of the new car sales programs for both the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Navy Exchange Service Command.
“As a single lieutenant, my only use of the commissary at Fort Hood was loading up on canned goods like [beef] stew before field training exercises because I didn’t like C-Rations,” Campbell recalled.
“My plan had always been to pursue a career in consumer-packaged goods marketing,” he continued. “Never did military resale enter my mind until I became VP of marketing for exchange overseas car sales, selling American-made cars to AAFES and NEXCOM consumers.”
As he leaves DeCA, Campbell said he feels it is important to remind the experienced members of the team to pass on their knowledge and wisdom before they walk out the door.
“DeCA is a wonderfully diverse organization with a wealth of experience that is apparent in its workforce,” Campbell said. “But this depth of experience exposes a risk: retirements. I met an employee who was a manager at the same store for 40 years – and that’s not uncommon. When they end their career, how much of that knowledge do they leave behind?
“We owe it to our workforce to spend time, mentoring and sharing the knowledge with them as they conclude their commissary careers,” he insisted. “Leave a legacy behind; don’t just retire.”