Thankful for time spent in Kentucky

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Column by Maj. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr.

“My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything.” 

These were the words of President-elect Abraham Lincoln upon leaving Springfield, Ill., for Washington, D.C. Since President Lincoln is Kentucky’s most famous son, I believe it’s only appropriate I adopt his words as I turn over the reins of the United States Army Recruiting Command to Maj. Gen. David Mann.

Ann and I have spent more than 32 wonderful years in the Army and I've spent three of those as a general officer at Fort Knox. I’ve cherished every single moment in the Commonwealth. The Army is planning our next adventure and we're preparing for our orders.

When we first arrived for this latest Fort Knox assignment, I was put in charge of the Armor Center and School. I'm an Armor officer by training and enjoyed leading the training for our newly enlisted Soldiers, our officers and our NCOs. I know first-hand the quality of training for soldiers today is second-to-none after witnessing it here and from working with soldiers in Iraq. 

Fort Knox is a growing post and the arrival of my boss, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley and Susan brought a new passion for the post and the community. Like so many of us before them, they developed a deep love for this community. As a community and family, you reached out to them the same loving way as you have to so many of us. I want to thank Lt. Gen. Freakley and Susan for their tremendous support to Fort Knox and the United States Army Recruiting Command.

The Fort Knox region is one of the most supportive communities in the country and Ann and I will always be among your most vocal ambassadors. You're selflessly supportive of our Army, our Soldiers, our families and this post. Your Army and America’s freedoms are stronger because of your selfless support and commitment.

As a team, we've made our Army stronger by accomplishing over 100 percent of the Regular Army and Army Reserve missions in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, increasing high school diploma graduates to 99.9 percent of those recruited (a historic benchmark), and by placing 33,276 future soldiers into the fiscal year 2011 entry pool (highest entry pool percentage ever recorded). Very good job, team.

Someone once said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Saying goodbye to Fort Knox, the surrounding communities, and Kentucky, is hard indeed. It’s hard because you welcome each one of us in uniform with open arms, a loving heart and a supportive spirit that makes us feel as though we have come home to family.

Each one of you holds a special place in Ann’s and my heart. We’ve worked hard every day to ensure that when the day comes that we must leave Fort Knox, we contributed to its eternal strength. We’ve had our hard times, and we’ve faced our challenges, but we didn’t do it alone - you were there hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, and together, we succeeded.

Goodbye until we meet again. May God bless America, our Army, our Soldiers in harm’s way and the great citizens of this wonderful community.

Strength starts here. Army Strong! Hooah!


Maj. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr. is the outgoing commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, headquartered at Fort Knox. A change of command ceremony is set for Thursday.