Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Campbell wants his Soldiers to know that his wasn’t an easy recruiter’s packet. The Soldier born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wants his troops to know that he was born in a deficit, to a family struggling financially. He wants those he leads to know his record before the U.S. Army wasn’t squeaky-clean. Candidly, he admits, “I had made some pretty drastic decisions that caused a lot of heartache for my mother and myself that ultimately led to some challenging times.” He says he couldn’t “find a way out.”
After catching an Army “Be all you can be” commercial on television, he decided to meet with a recruiter. He said it took a year to get him in the Army with all the challenges, and that he was those recruiters’ "most waivered enlistee" ever. Three decades later, as he grasped the unit colors handed to him by the brigade commander, Col. David Key, in a symbolic gesture of his assumption of the responsibilities of a brigade command sergeant major, he’s grateful.
“If it wasn’t for my recruiters and the dedication that they had and the time they spent with me, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Campbell could’ve meant that he wouldn’t be the new senior enlisted advisor to the commander of the 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade on Fort Stewart, Georgia. Given the hardships experienced that he described as a mix of self-imposed and environmental, a listener may wonder if he didn’t mean something much more profound.
Regardless of what was left unsaid about the path he had been on as a young man, it’s clear by his smile when he speaks of his Family that he’s a proud husband, father, and a grandfather. He and his wife of 33 years have four children and five grandchildren. He claims Tacoma, Washington, as his hometown.
He finally made it into the Army in 1992 as a sustainer, completing initial entry training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He has served at all levels of commands. His first deployment was in Operation Iraqi Freedom I, where he was a platoon sergeant in the 4th Infantry Division. Following that, he volunteered to be a drill sergeant, training initial entry Soldiers for a year and a half. As a sergeant first class, he was selected to be the first sergeant of the 266th Quartermaster Battalion. Shortly after, he was promoted to master sergeant, fully a first sergeant by pay grade.
Campbell can tell you precisely how many months he’s served the Army as a first sergeant- 63 months. With being the senior enlisted advisor of three companies and taking one downrange, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t accrued more experience than most at leading Soldiers. Shortly after that deployment, he was selected for the Sergeants Major Academy.
As a sergeant major for the last ten years, he’s served at all levels, including major commands, corps and division. He served as the battalion command sergeant major for the 296th Brigade Support Battalion. Now he comes to the 3rd Infantry Division following time at Human Resources Command as the Quartermaster Branch and Field Services Division sergeant major. While very successful as a leader in the Army, life has continued to throw some curveballs he’s had to put in work to recover from. He’s not afraid to talk about that either.
“Motorcycle accident,” he said flatly. “I went down, had a severe concussion, they life flighted me out.”
Campbell suffered a brain injury from the accident, and it took nearly three months to recover enough to return to work. He says after the ordeal, now he’s in a good place. In remarks made during the brigade’s official change of responsibility ceremony, he joked lightly about it. It’s really no surprise that he still rides.
“I’ve got my motorcycle here and can’t wait to get involved with the motorcycle mentor program,” he said.
Campbell is just as forthcoming about his goals for the brigade Soldiers and missions with which he has been entrusted. One theme recurring throughout his discussion is “Soldier First.” For him, the phrase seems made up of two parallel concepts: Regardless of military occupational specialty, every member of his organization should be an expert Soldier and that leaders must prioritize people’s needs as a matter of obligation to the nation’s sons and daughters that have volunteered to serve.
He’s clear on what he feels leaders should be prioritizing.
“It’s not about ‘me;’ it’s never about ‘me,’” he emphasized. “It’s all about the Soldiers, and so what I would challenge every Provider leader is that it’s not about you. It’s about taking care of the Soldiers. If you receive a problem for a Soldier, you put it in your rucksack and you carry it until it’s complete.”
Campbell continued to list off many facets of Soldiering that leaders should strive to help those under their care master, including basic warrior tasks and drills, preparing for promotions, weapons qualifications, and Army Combat Fitness Tests. “We want experts, experts in all that we do,” he said firmly.
“No one is more professional than I,” he replied when asked which line of the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer was most important to him. “It really encompasses everything that we do. We are a profession at arms. When we know that and live that, there is pride that comes from us. Everyone should be proud to serve in this capacity.”
Campbell also discussed what his Soldiers and leaders could expect from him as the brigade’s senior-most NCO.
“Wherever there is a need within this brigade, I want to try to fill that gap. I want to come see the Soldiers where they are, whether it’s in the motor pool, whether it’s on the line, in the kitchen, the [supply support activity], the [support operations section]. I want to get to know them, and I want to get to know what they do on a daily basis.”
Speak with Campbell briefly, and you’ll know that he is patriotic and proud of the Soldier profession. Maybe after more than 30 years of service, he still feels the need to continue to earn the chance the Army took on him long ago. It turns out, he’s always wanted to serve with the storied 3rd Infantry Division.
“What an amazing opportunity, not just for me, but for everybody in this command, to turn around and serve our nation and its sons and daughters. There is nothing more important to me and my Family than to serve at this capacity, and I think if we all come in as servant leaders, all we can do is make this organization great. I just am really looking forward to: A. Being a ‘Dogface Soldier,’ and B. Being a ‘Provider.’”