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From defender to instructor

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christina Russo
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

From the moment Tech. Sgt. Brandon Campbell, a former fireteam member with the 910th Security Forces Squadron, arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic military training, he fell in love with the idea of earning the title of Military Training Instructor. It was then Campbell promised himself he’d transition from security forces defender to MTI. 

Campbell began his military career shortly after his graduation from Hickory High School in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 2010. He enlisted in the Army and traveled to Georgia for his training. 

“I decided to join the Army infantry and went to Fort Benning for training,” said Campbell. “After some time spent with the Army, and being young and inexperienced with life, I quit.”

Deep down, Campbell knew he needed the discipline and structure the military offered, but wanted different experiences than those he had in the Army. He settled on the Air Force.

“Six months later, I decided to try and get back in the military,” said Campbell. “I did not know how difficult that would actually be.”

Having grown up in a military family, Campbell used that as his motivation to stay on track through the daunting process of re-enlisting.

“My family has a lot of military members,” said Campbell. “My dad served in the Army, so that was a lot of motivation to look back at when getting back in.”

Eventually, Campbell found himself raising his right hand once again, and after taking the oath of enlistment, Campbell left for BMT. 

“I went to BMT in January of 2012 and came home after my graduation from security forces technical school,” said Campbell.

During his time at BMT, Campbell vowed to make his way back to Lackland AFB, but this time as an instructor.

“I want to shape future Airmen and help them learn how to make good decisions,” said Campbell.

Campbell’s mentors at BMT weren’t the sole reason he succeeded the second time around. It was his overall outlook on both the military and himself that changed. He began to place more significance on the positive influences rather than seeking out the negatives. 

“I’ve had so many influences in my life,” said Campbell. “Let's start with Mr. Ray Olsen (Campbell’s junior high teacher). Mr. Olsen going through junior high saw a lot of potential in me and drove me to reach that potential. Then there was ‘Doc’ Greenburg who was my track coach. He taught me how to be dedicated to a cause and the discipline to execute it.”

It was the respect Campbell’s teacher and coach gave him during his youth that made a lasting impression and what he would cling to when life became difficult.

When the time came for Campbell to pursue his dream of becoming a MTI, life had other plans. 

“When I first started pursuing this career opportunity, just a couple months into it, my father had a serious heart attack which threw me off that path emotionally,” said Campbell. “I was very hesitant to continue on the path. I wanted to stay close to him and make sure he healed the best he could.”

Knowing it was more important for him to be present for his father, Campbell made the tough decision to put his dream of becoming a MTI on hold. Despite his health, Campbell’s father knew his son had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and didn’t want the then staff sergeant to skip out on it. 

“This was a very stressful time for me, but after my father convinced me to continue to pursue being a MTI, it was game on,” said Campbell. 

Campbell’s painful decision to push onward was embraced by his coworkers. Their constant support and encouragement was what drove Campbell to fulfill his dream. 

“Lt. Col. Stewart literally was in my corner and excited from day one,” said Campbell. “He personally made a phone call to the 433rd Training Squadron commander and put in a good word for me.”

Stewart, the 910th Security Forces Squadron commander, took it upon himself to make the phone call because he saw the raw potential Campbell possessed. He knew Campbell would prosper in that environment and become an even greater NCO if given the opportunity to fulfill his dream.

“I want to become a better NCO and learn how to better support my troops and reach them over many spectrums,” said Campbell.

Campbell’s hunger to strengthen his leadership skills as an NCO was evident to his coworkers, and they in turn, vowed to be his source of encouragement after the untimely setback of his father’s heart attack.

Even though they knew it would cost them an exemplary security forces troop, others in the 910th SFS supported his efforts to become a MTI.

“Maj. Nick Megyesi (910th SFS operations officer) also was a very influential mentor in the process of getting me in touch with Tech. Sgt. Cooper (a MTI and close friend of Megyesi),” said Campbell. “I also would like to include Tech. Sgt. Lee Gebhart (a 910th SFS fireteam leader) for encouraging me to pursue this and become a better leader for my future.”

Campbell attributes the Air Force for the positive changes in his life.

“I am a better person every day because of what the Air Force has done for me,” said Campbell. 

Campbell also gives thanks to his parents for their guidance and support throughout his entire Air Force career. 

“I would honestly like to thank my mother and stepfather, Nicole and Jay Whalen,” said Campbell. “They have backed me up for years and have got to witness the individual I have become from day one. I owe a lot of thanks for their guidance, and I could not begin to imagine where I would be at in the world today.”

Even with all the guidance and support from his parents, the Air Force was the missing puzzle piece in Campbell’s life. From the moment he answered his nation’s call and raised his right hand, he immediately became a part of a family; a family that would be his sentry and avenger during his time of need, and above all else, a wingman. 

Campbell’s dream of becoming a MTI means he has to say goodbye to his duties and responsibilities as a defender. Even though he is closing the door on one chapter in his military career, another one is opening. 

“I’ll be the first supervisor these trainees will have coming into the Air Force,” said Campbell. “I want to make such a positive impact on them so somewhere down the line, they will think back and be a positive figure for their wingmen.”

Campbell is scheduled to graduate from the MTI school on Sept. 5. A valued team member has departed the 910th, but remains a part of the Air Force family with a potentially greater impact than if he had stayed.