Academy grad leads CCLD, mentors cadets during uncertain times

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Spradlin, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Seventeen years ago, Col. Kim Campbell, then one of the junior pilots in her squadron, was providing close air support to ground troops near Baghdad when her A-10 Thunderbolt II suffered extensive damage from enemy fire.

The hydraulics system was compromised. Campbell had two options. Pilot the aircraft on manually to the base and try to land it safely or bail out of the aircraft in hostile territory. She went with option one.

In an article appearing on, then chief of safety for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Lt. Col. Mike Millen, lauded her performance.

“I was impressed. Kim landed that jet with no hydraulics better than I land the A-10 every day with all systems operational,” he said. 

Campbell, who is an Academy graduate and now the Director of the Center for Character and Leadership Development, said she believes her training and the exceptional leadership environment in her squadron helped her be successful in that stressful moment.

“That was a challenging mission, but it was also a defining moment in my life. That mission pushed me to my limits, but it also showed me what I was capable of doing,” she said. “This mission and my experience set the stage for the rest of my career.”

She credits each phase of her career with helping mold her into the leader she is today; however, she said she has valued recent opportunities to give back to the Academy and the cadets who will one day be leaders in the Air and Space Forces.

“The Academy for me was where it all started,” she said. “I learned that I had to work hard to excel under pressure and not to be afraid of that pressure; about time management and setting priorities; as well as the importance of building relationships and not having to do it all alone. It’s been incredibly rewarding to be a part of the cadets’ lives and mentor them.”

At the CCLD, she oversees a team who is serving the Academy by advancing character and leadership development in all phases of the training. The CCLD defines a leader of character as one who “lives honorably, lifts others to their best possible selves, and elevates performance toward a common and noble purpose.”

Campbell described it as operationalizing the Air Force’s Core Values.

“To me, character is the foundation of everything that we do in terms of developing leaders,” she said.

CCLD: Adapting to COVID-19, new leadership environments

in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCLD quickly adapted to provide virtual leadership opportunities and an online newsletter for the entire base related to grit, personal happiness and resiliency. It also provided morale opportunities for the cadets at the Outdoor Leadership Complex. And this February, the National Character & Leadership Symposium will be offered virtually – expanding access to a series of thought leaders and speakers on the topic of Warrior Ethos.

The CCLD is also continuing their work on experiential based learning that allows cadets to “practice” the character and leadership concepts they’re taught in an environment where it’s safe to fail and learn from mistakes.

“This generation of leaders will face unique challenges, they need to be prepared to lead effectively in uncertainty,” Campbell said. “Our role in CCLD is to help our cadets meet this challenge, to help develop leaders of character who can make tough choices, face adversity, and excel in complex and dynamic environments.”

To read more about the CCLD:

To read the article: