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Campbell Continues His Dream Through AFROTC
K-State's Chris Campbell competes in the men's 4x400 yard relay during the KSU Winter Invitational at Ahearn Field House in Manhattan, Kansas on December 14, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
May 8, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
From a young age, K-State track and field sprinter Chris Campbell knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
The standout athlete at Wentzville Holt High School dreamed about being a pilot in the United States Air Force and serving his country, but it wasn't until this past year that he was able to begin turning his dreams into reality through the K-State Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) program.
Campbell came to K-State in the fall of 2011 to compete with the Wildcats and early on looked into joining K-State AFROTC. However, due to cutbacks in the program, things didn't work out in the beginning for Campbell.
Not giving up on his dreams, he tried again in May 2013. On the same day he returned from the 2013 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in Austin, Texas, where he helped the Wildcats earn a 13th place finish in the 4x400, he met with the AFROTC program's Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies and Operations Flight Commander Cpt. Amanda Hatesohl about joining the program.
Taking note of his determination, Hatesohl went to Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Snowden, commander of the K-State AFROTC program, to talk about Campbell.
"Within that one day period, we got back from regionals, I talked to Capt. Hatesohl about joining, she talked with Col. Snowden, he passed the waiver for me, then she sent me an email and I went back in and did some paperwork," explained Campbell. "By then, it was midafternoon. I got in my car and drove home and by the time I got home I had an email saying I got into the program - all in one day. It was unbelievably exciting."
But that was only the beginning.
While the 2013-14 school year has been one filled with excitement for Campbell, it has also been a year filled with overcoming new challenges.
"I really had to learn the Air Force knowledge, the Code of Conduct, where the major airbases are, the Airman's Creed and the Air Force song," began Campbell. "I had to learn all the honor codes and the Air Force vision, the marching - I had to learn all those things essentially right away."
Joining the program later in his collegiate career than most, cadets in Campbell's situation are known as "compressors" because they combine the program's first two years (the freshman and sophomore year) into one.
Compressors face double the work and double the learning of the average cadet. That makes for a busy schedule for any college student, but for Campbell, time management was key as he was still competing for K-State track and field.
"It is a little time consuming and a little hectic, you really have to manage yourself," said Campbell. "Waking up early, doing homework, going to practice and then doing Air Force things, I had to make sure I was on task with everything."
While it may have been hectic, there's no doubt Campbell handled the pressure better than most. Staying on task, along with the hard work he put in in the classroom, during the indoor track and field season he placed in the top five in eight meets, including four first-place finishes in the 4X400. At the Big 12 Indoor Championships in Ames, Iowa, he placed third in both the 600-yard and the 4X400.
So far during the outdoor season, Campbell has continued to help the Wildcat 4X400 team to success as the group placed first at both the TCU Invitational on March 21, and at the Ward Haylett Invitational last weekend at K-State's R.V. Christian Track Complex. Also at the Ward Haylett Invitational, Campbell set a personal best in the 400 meters after placing third with a time of 47.53 seconds.
Where Campbell has excelled this season on the track, he has also excelled as a cadet. This semester, Campbell took part in a Field Training Preparation class where he learned all he needs to know - from essential leadership skills to properly folding uniforms - to prepare for a summer of field training. It's not easy, and not every cadet gets chosen to attend the intense summer training program. However, his hard work did not go unnoticed, and he was chosen to attend the AFROTC's field training this July at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
"He has just made huge strides," began Hatesohl. "He's shown a different level of maturity. He articulates himself very well; he's very professional. This semester is normally the most difficult for compressors, but he has stepped up in ways that I would have never anticipated. He does his homework, and he's taken his own time to learn his Airman's Manual, drill and ceremony - things that you would expect from the folks who've been in the program for two years. He knows the little fine details, and his hand is always right there with all the other two-years, if not the four-year students. He's ready to go."
It's taken a busy year of work, but today, Campbell proudly wears two very different uniforms.
On the track, he wears purple while representing Kansas State University, while off the track he wears camouflage and is ready to represent his country.
"When I started in the fall, I was just excited to be in the program," explained Campbell, "but after learning their core values of integrity first, excellence in all we do and service before self, it was kind of like, those values kind of started to identify me.
"I was able to not only show it as an Air Force cadet, but also show it for the track team and apply it in my life while I adapted to those core values. It has helped me mature a lot."