By Larry StevensJune 1, 2010
After 40 years of Army service dating back to the Vietnam War, Gen. Charles C. "Hondo" Campbell, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), will retire June 3 during a combined retirement and change of command ceremony on Hedekin Field.
Campbell took over FORSCOM - the Army's largest command - Jan. 9, 2007, becoming its seventeenth commander. With his retirement, another chapter in Army history will close, as Campbell is the last continuously serving general officer with service during Vietnam to leave active duty.
Campbell, a native of Shreveport, La., earned his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps while earning a bachelor's degree in history at Louisiana State University in 1970, when the active duty Army was 1.2 million Soldiers strong and a conscripted force. His initial assignment was as an instructor at the Infantry Training Command (Provisional), U.S. Army Training Center Infantry, Fort Ord, Calif.
After Special Forces training, Campbell taught tactics at Forces Armee' National Khmere Training Command, Army Advisory Group, Phouc Tuy Training Battalion, U.S. Army, Vietnam. While in Vietnam, he subsequently served as A-Detachment executive officer and commander.
"When I went to Vietnam, we had more than 500,000 Soldiers in Vietnam," said Campbell, adding that compared to the size of today's all-volunteer active component - about 560,000 - it was a far different Army.
Since Vietnam, Campbell has served in a variety of positions, including as commander of the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., and commander of the Eighth Army in Korea. He also served on six occasions as chief of staff for units with areas of responsibility ranging from Germany to Korea, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, the Horn of Africa and the continental United States.
His experiences have given him perspective on the evolution of the Army, said Campbell.
"So when I look across broad brush strokes of 40 years, there were three points that were really strategic, in my view, as it relates to the Army," he said. "The first occurred in July 1973 when the Army became an all-volunteer force. It had to reinvent itself to embrace a doctrine of maneuver for a possible fight against the Soviet threat. The second point happened in 1989 when the Berlin Wall collapsed, and the Army had to reinvent itself into an expeditionary force," said Campbell. "The third turning point came on Sept. 11, 2001, after which the Army had to become really campaign capable in order to prosecute a protracted conflict."
Reflecting on the modern-day Army, Campbell said, "The Army of today is fundamentally different from the Army of 2001. We have adapted for the present and the future fight. We have moved from a division structure to a brigade-centric modular structure, from a linear force generation model to a rotational force generation model that is characterized by progressive readiness and cyclical deployment, and from a National Guard and Army Reserve that was a strategic force, to one that is fully integrated into the operational force and are (now) making proportional contributions every day."
Campbell role as FORSCOM's top officer has enabled him to command all continental U.S.-based conventional operating forces for much of the last four years.
"Our Army is clearly fatigued by nearly nine years of combat. But, through it all, our Army remains resilient, determined and extraordinarily effective. Our Soldiers today are more expert, better educated, better trained, more lethal and more combat-experienced than at any time, certainly in the 40 years I have served in the ranks," said Campbell.
Looking back at his time with FORSCOM since he initially arrived at as its deputy commanding general in 2006, Campbell noted how the command has evolved along with the Army.
"For many, many years, FORSCOM was a management headquarters," he said. "In the last four years, it has become an operating headquarters. That's a significant change that has been lost on many; it's not lost on anyone who has been assigned to Forces Command."
Another change to FORSCOM and to the Army during Campbell's tenure has been the birth and refinement of the rotational force generation model now known as Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN).
"I'm not sure that I made that happen, but I will say a big deal of it happened during the four years I've been with Forces Command," said Campbell. ARFORGEN grew out of what Campbell said are three major paradigms shifts that have been occurring in the Army, particularly within the operating forces of the Army.
"The first was (former Army chief of staff) Gen. (Peter) Schoomaker's decision to modularize the force," said Campbell. "He made that decision in 2003. Since then, we've worked as an Army diligently to modularize the force. By the end of 2011, we'll have completed modularizing the force - that's 301 brigades."
The second shift relates to altering the Army's strategic concept of force generation, said Campbell, specifically with the notion of generating forces that are progressively ready across the components and then cyclically deployed during periods of availability based on combatant commanders' requirements and operational support tasking.
"That has been a huge change, and it has been wedded to a third paradigm change that relates to the (ongoing) efforts to maximize the National Guard and the Army Reserve," said Campbell, adding the ARFORGEN concept was "birthed" at Forces Command.
"It was approved for implementation in the summer of 2006, shortly after I arrived at Forces Command as the deputy commanding general and chief of staff," said Campbell. "Over the past four years, the (ARFORGEN) model has been matured and the process has been refined."
When it comes to the Guard and Reserve, Campbell said there have been massive strides taken to improve readiness.
"It has emerged as a national treasure, it is more seasoned, more capably led, more robustly manned and better equipped than at any time since World War II," Campbell said. "Certainly, we need to continue our effort to operationalize the Guard and Reserve, and to ensure it is fully integrated in the operating force and that it continues to make a proportional contribution in the years ahead as it has done in the recent past."
A decorated Soldier, Campbell will retire having earned medals including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit (third oak leaf cluster), a Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal (fifth oak leaf cluster), the Army Commendation Medal (with oak leaf cluster), and an Army Achievement Medal, as well as a Special Forces tab and Parachutist Badge. Upon his retirement, Campbell and his wife, Dianne, will settle in his hometown of Shreveport.