By: Tom Duggan – February, 2006
Don Campbell joined the military in 1978. He was commissioned into ROTC at Pittsburgh State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. After serving active duty for his first two years in Kansas, Don was sent to Germany at the height of the cold war and stationed at various bases around the city of Stuttgart, Germany.
At the time, Don says, there were serious problems with terrorism in Europe and on military bases in particular. Explosions on American bases were frequent, Campbell recalls, “ it was a big problem even though we were technically in peacetime.”
Don served in Germany for about five years and trained on the East/West border between the two Germanys.
Amid the tension and the hostile environment, Campbell says it was there that he met his wife Linda. “I went to the American Express office to exchange currency in December of 1980, and while I was standing in line I met this cute lieutenant named Linda Dean.”
“We were both officers,” Linda added. “I remember a lot of mud and a lot of cold while we were training there. When we saw the American military spread out all over Germany, it was quite a sight.
It was almost incomprehensible to see the magnitude of the military forces lining up on the border like that. To me it was astonishing to comprehend the things that had to take place to coordinate such a build up.”
Don and Linda hit it off right away and despite their separate duties, they were able to spend a lot of time together, even traveling to the Soviet Union and East Berlin. “The abject poverty was horrible,” Linda recounted. “It was just so sad – the conditions those people had to live under. They were literally starving.”
“We eventually left Europe in December of 1985 and went our separate ways. The military had other plans for us,” Campbell says. “I was stationed at Fort Bragg and Linda was sent to INTEL training and then to college in Arizona for about nine months.”
“It gets harder and harder to stay together as you move up in rank when you are both in themilitary,” Linda continued. “So he was back at fort Bragg and I was spending time in Air Force training, specializing in intelligence.
Don also spent time at Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia.” Eventually, Linda was also assigned to Fort Bragg where, again, they were able to spend time together. “We were split up for a time but then met back at Fort Bragg where we were able to be together for about 2 ½ years,” she recalled.
Don, however, stayed in the Army and in 1990, during the build up to the first Gulf War, volunteered for active duty. He remembers being told that he would never be sent over to the Middle East in October of 1990, but within a few short months the Army tracked him down and shipped him to Saudi Arabia.
“We were at a family funeral on his side of the family and the Army somehow found out where we were and called us right there on the phone to notify him he was going to the Middle East,” recalled Linda. “Our daughter was born about three days after Don left for the war.”
“I arrived in the Middle East on the 22nd of December (1990) and I was there until the 19th of July 1991. I ended up flying in on Christmas Eve, just in time to see the Bob Hope show. It was great,” he said.
Campbell was assigned to the 10th Personnel Command, which is part of the 3rd Army Division and hand-selected to manage the database at headquarters.
My duties included managing casualties, tracking people on the battlefield from command headquarters and setting up a data processing installation where we did remote mainframe data entry.”
“We set up a database before we were ready to kick off the ground war because we wanted to have the right people in the right places to sustain thirty to sixty days of continual military operations.
Casualty projections were like playing the lottery at the time; it was hit and miss. The low figure was 250 casualties and the high was 20,000. The Iraqis were really inept. Otherwise we would have had more casualties. It all had to be managed by computer at Headquarters.
As an expert in Army strategy, Don worked at the Headquarters ofCommanding General John J. General Yeosok. Here, all the logistics for the war were worked out. “Our job was to get the troops the information they needed. We also ran the postal locator which made us very popular,” he laughed.
“You are putting people from all different units together for one purpose, coordinating where everyone is suppose to be and where they are going, where the casualties are and where they are being relocated to.”
“Basically, I ran the world’s biggest computer hacking operation in the Gulf War to synchronize forces, get the mail where it needed to be, get information to the troops – even if it was something like the death of a family member so we could coordinate getting them home. We controlled the troop flow and redeployment system.”
Stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and then in a major detachment in Darahn, Campbell helped to run a liaison with 7th Corps and 18th Airborne Corps.
He said the possibility of being hit by a scud missile by the Iraqis was always a concern and an immediate danger.
We were always a target because we were at Headquarters. They were shooting at us in Riyadh.
We didn’t know what might be attached to the scuds. We knew they had the capability of weaponizing their scuds with chemical agents.
When the ground war kicked off, I was in Daran, and if our guys got hit with chemicals, it was my job to figure out what to do.” As it turned out, American forces were lucky not to encounter biological or chemical attacks by the Iraqis.
“We had a lot of operational problems too. There were only two data uplinks in the country. One was in Riyadh and whatever bandwidth they had was at command and control. In Dhahran they installed a satellite uplink and if the Iraqis had taken out that uplink, we would have been in big trouble because the whole war was orchestrated by computer.”
Campbell has had several severe health problems since the Gulf War. “Don has gotten very sick from the war. We think it was because they gave him so many shots before they sent him to the Middle East and they gave them all at once.
“After the war, everyone was coming up positive for TB. We knew we didn’t have it, but we were testing positive so something was definitely going on,” Don added.
Linda says that from the day he got back from the war it was apparent that Don wasn’t feeling well. “When he came home he could barely walk. He had written me a letter after getting the shots and at that time he was laid out for a couple of days. The chemical and biological threat was there, so they had to get the shots.”
Since Don’s daughter was born three days after he arrived in the Middle East, when he returned to the States he wasn’t sure if she would even know who he was. “When I came back, I went first to Washington D.C. and then to Indianapolis. On my first week off I came home and was surprised to see that my daughter knew who I was right away. It was very emotional.”
“We were at Logan Airport and we had a large sign that said ‘WELCOME HOME MAJOR DAD,’ Linda fondly recalled. “About a hundred people started gathering at the airport where we were waiting and when he came off the plane, our daughter just jumped into his arms.”
Don Campbell retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1999 at 42 years old.
Don and Linda Campbell, thank you so much for your combined service to the people of the United States. We are proud to honor you both as Valley Patriots for your personal sacrifices and endless dedication to the safety of the world.