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Karen Campbell - Proof you don't have to wear a uniform to serve

Karen Campbell, 366th Contracting Squadron, director of business operations, poses for a photo at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. (Courtesy Photo)

Karen Campbell, 366th Contracting Squadron, director of business operations, poses for a photo at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. (Courtesy Photo)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- At 17,  Karen Campbell joined the Department of Agriculture' s Soil Conservation Service in Pocatello, Idaho following her high school graduation. Campbell was an only child and her dad was a career federal employee, which was familiar to her. Nearly 36 years later, Karen prepares for retirement following an amazing career culminating as the Director of Business Operations of the 366th Contracting Squadron.

She is a leader, mentor, advisor, friend, pioneer, and the true backbone of her organization. She's served 10 different Contracting Commanders and won the ACC and AF Contracting Outstanding Strategic Acquisition Reform Award for fiscal year 1999. Although she has won many individual and team awards throughout her career, she claims simply being a member of the 366th Contracting Squadron gives her the most pride. "The squadron has accomplished many amazing things in my nearly 26.5 years here, but everything can be attributed to squadron attitude," said Campbell. "Sometimes, I think we are forgotten because we're isolated and relatively quiet, but most don't see the squadron's tenacity and fearlessness. We have always been willing to plunge into the unknown and provide many of ACC and AF Contracting firsts. We'll tackle anything and, even with a lack of guidance, and sometimes a little reluctance, we'll use our best judgment and figure things out. We're self-sufficient and independent. We put integrity first and always and try to do what's right. I can't think of a single accomplishment greater than that."

Campbell  is proof that you don't have to wear a uniform to serve as she has dedicated her life to serving Air Force contracting and growing future leaders. She is one of the most modest people I've ever met and only seeks recognition and credit for others. When asked what she would miss most, she doesn't hesitate in her response, "Simple, the people. One of the things I love most about working for the Air Force is meeting such diverse people. They all have different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, attitudes, ideas, ideals, goals, interests, and on and on. I find my co-workers so interesting! How could I not miss them?"

When Campbell retires on 3 January, 2014, it will be the end of an era for the 366th Contracting Squadron. She's truly an Air Force contracting legacy and I am honored to have the privilege to be her last CONS Commander. Benjamin Disraeli once said, "The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example." Although Karen would never admit it, she is a true civilian hero and has provided an excellent example of professionalism, dedication and sacrifice over the last 35 plus years that we should all strive to emulate. Karen, you are extremely humble and never seek the spotlight, but you need to know that you've made a huge difference in this organization and have touched so many lives...you will be deeply missed, and we promise to continue down the path you have cleared for us.