News Channel 11 is launching a new series called “Veteran’s Voices”. Every week, we’ll share the stories of veterans who call the Tri-Cities region home. You can nominate a veteran HERE.
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Rob Campbell is living proof that, for many U.S. Military veterans, the call to service doesn’t end when they no longer wear the uniform.
“It’s in my DNA,” he said. “It’s not something you turn off when you retire.”
After retiring from the Army as a Colonel, Campbell and his family chose to live in Northeast Tennessee. “We love the mountains,” he said. “And the people have been so kind.”
It’s the latest stop for Campbell, his wife and their children after 27 years of active duty service that took them around the world.
But Campbell said the military wasn’t part of his original plan. He was intent on playing college basketball.
When that didn’t work out, he turned to the Army as a way to pay for school.
“I found that I really liked it when I went to basic training in 1987,” he said. “I thought – this is neat. It really grew on me.”
By 1990, Campbell’s rise through the ranks of the U.S. Army was underway. Months of training led to posts around the world and three combat tours – one in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.
“You have to fight the war that you get, not the one you desire,” he said. “That was a big awakening for me.”
He won leadership roles in the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne Divisions. Campbell was part of the response efforts after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and he led a task force in search of American POW Bowe Bergdahl in July 2009.
“All of it had tremendous impact on me in so many ways, and I’m tremendously grateful for the experience,” he said.
After 27 years in the Army, Colonel Campbell made what he said was a very difficult decision to retire and try something new.
“The army was easy,” he said. “It was – here’s your career path. Move out. For the first time in my life I had a blank sheet of paper, and it was daunting.”
Campbell says while the specifics of what he would do in civilian life were uncertain, he knew his life of service wasn’t over.
He wrote a book about the transition called “At Ease – Enjoying the Freedom You Fought For”. Campbell launched a leadership coaching business, moved to Northeast Tennessee and recently purchased a business called “All About Blinds” in Johnson City.
“From brigade commander to blinds installer,” he said. “You would never put those two together.”
But he sees the connection. For him, business is a way to lead and serve – the newest chapter in his life of service after almost three decades on the front lines.
“We’re able to serve – serve our customers and our community and our people. And if its window fashions that allow me to do it, then great. And we’re having a blast.”
Rob Campbell will share about this life and leadership lessons at event next week at the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce.
The session called “Investing in People” – Leadership Lessons From the Battlefield to the Boardroom Colonel” will be held on Tuesday, May 3rd from 11:30 to 12:30.