Father, Step-son Prepare for Deployment

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
When Senior Master Sgt. Bob James deploys to southwest Asia for what will likely be the final deployment of his 36-plus year career in the Michigan Air National Guard, sharing the skills and knowledge he's picked up in more than three decades in the maintenance shop will be his primary objective.

The fact that his step-son will be one of the beneficiaries of some of that accumulated wisdom brings a proud smile to his lips.

James and Senior Airman Cole Campbell, both members of the 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., plan to deploy together for a roughly four month assignment to southwest Asia. For Campbell, who has been in the Air Guard for about three years, it will be his first forward deployment assignment.

"I'm anxious to get out there and do what I am trained to do," Campbell said. "I volunteered for a deployment to Turkey last year, but I got bumped."

Initially, the two men were not anticipating serving together on deployment. James originally had orders to deploy to an airfield in Iraq, where he has served in the past. Due to changing military needs, his assignment to Iraq was scrubbed and the deployment to another location in southwest Asia was substituted - a deployment Campbell had already volunteered for and been assigned to.

Campbell said in addition to performing his duties as an aerospace ground equipment technician while deployed, he hopes to be able to complete his correspondence coursework for Airman Leadership School, which is required of all Airmen who hope to be promoted to staff sergeant. He also hopes to be able to complete some coursework that will allow him to finish his associate degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Campbell said he originally joined the Air National Guard three years ago because he decided he wanted to begin putting together a career, rather than just working at jobs.

"It was time to get going with my life and I saw what a good career he's had in the Guard," Campbell said of his stepfather.

"The military is not for everyone," said James, the father of five in a blended family. "I never put any pressure on any of the kids to join up. But Cole is a very structured young man and I think he fits in well with the kind of structure that exists in the military."

James, who works as the aircraft production superintendent for the 191st, which supports KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at Selfridge, said he's looking forward to working with the young active-duty Airmen on his final deployment.

"I enjoy being able to take my years of experience and working and sharing that experience. It is important to let today's Airmen know how important they are to the Air Force and to our country," said James, who plans to retire from the military in 2011.

Campbell and James will be the third generation of their family to answer a deployment order as a member of the Michigan Air National Guard. James' uncle, Herbert Allen, was mobilized during the Korean War. Allen and his unit were deployed to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona to assist in flight training operations in 1951-1952. Allen would later retire as a master sergeant from the Michigan Air National Guard, right around the time James first enlisted in 1974.

James was one of the first new Michigan Air National Guard enlistees to begin service at what had been Selfridge Air Force Base. In 1973, ownership of the Selfridge base was transferred to the Guard from the active-duty Air Force and the Michigan Air National Guard transferred its Detroit area operations to Selfridge from Detroit Metropolitan Airport. James said over the years he has worked on the F-106 Delta Dart, T-33 Shooting Star, F-4 Phantom, F-16 Fighting Falcon, C-130 Hercules and his current aircraft, the KC-135. James said during his military career, he estimates that he's been to about 80 percent of the countries in the world.

Off-duty, the two men, along with other members of the family, enjoy drag racing and often race their 1967 Ford Thunderbird at Milan Dragway in Milan, Mich.

"We do all the work ourselves," Campbell said. "I love working with the engines. Now we are starting to get into racing motorcycles, too. We'll be doing more of that when we get back."