#39 Col. Kim “KC” Campbell, USAF – Victory Strategies
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Kim "KC" Campbell, 𝗥𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗖𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗹, United States Air Force shares her experience as a 𝗙𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗣𝗶𝗹𝗼𝘁 and how it allows her to "𝗙𝗹𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗙𝗲𝗮𝗿" with the DC Local Leaders Podcast.
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Kim is a recipient of the 𝘿𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙪𝙞𝙨𝙝𝙚𝙙 𝙁𝙡𝙮𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝘾𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙨 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙃𝙚𝙧𝙤𝙞𝙨𝙢 when the airplane she was flying while supporting ground troops during 𝑂𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝐼𝑟𝑎𝑞𝑖 𝐹𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑑𝑜𝑚 was hit with a Surface to Air Missile. She was able to successfully save her wounded A-10 aircraft and recover back to base, a daring feat only accomplished successfully once before.
She is an outstanding example of #bravery, #valor, #humility and #leadership and contiues to be of #service helping others to "Fly" as a #leadership Speaker and #coach with Victory Srategies
Before retiring Kim served as the 𝑫𝒊𝒓𝒆𝒄𝒕𝒐𝒓 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑪𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒓 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝑪𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒆𝒓 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑳𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒉𝒊𝒑 𝑫𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒍𝒐𝒑𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 at the United States Air Force Academy, responsible for the professional development of faculty and staff and reinforcing character and leadership programs within the 4,000-member Cadet Wing.
Kim is a distinguished graduate from the United States Air Force Academy. She is a Marshall Scholar with two master's degrees, one in business administration from the University of London, and one in international security studies from the University of Reading, England.
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Phillip K. Naithram: well, Kim Campbell, thank you so much for joining us. That’s Colonel Kim Casey Campbell, and the Casey stands for killer check. Not. I thought that was fantastic. It’s super convenient that it happened to be your initial set at the same time. Yeah. Well, your most widely known for your experience in combat operation, Iraqi freedom.
Your plane was actually hit with a surface to air missile, but you were still able to finish your mission, your mission, and come back home, make it back to base. And that’s earned you the distinguished flying cross for your service and your heroism. During that mission. And not only that, you also are a professor or you were a professor at the United States air force academy recently retired within the last week from 24 years of service
Kim “KC’ Campbell: 24 years. Yeah, it’s crazy.
Phillip K. Naithram: But it doesn’t end there. You’re also a graduate of the United States air force academy, the most competitive academy to get into and Marshall scholar with two master’s degrees, one in business administration from the university of. And one in international security studies from the university of reading England.
So, and now one exciting news that I did want to bring up is that you are now part of a victory strategy down in Orlando,
tell me about victory and how’s that going to like, that’s an exciting new chapter for.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Victory strategies is a group of elite professionals. We range from Navy seals and fighter pilots to Olympians. And there is a wealth of experience that we’re willing to share that we’re ready to share.
It involves speaking and executive coaching and workshops. And so, there’s a lot of ways that we can help organizations kind of bring that elite mindset to them to help them in their organizations, help them in there. And help people personally and professionally as well.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah. I think one thing that you talk about a lot is that fighter pilot mindset and striving for continuous improvement and, you know, that’s I can’t think of anything more vulnerable or more nerve wracking than how fast are these does an eight, 10 warthogs.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Well, an A 10 is considered one of those slower air force.
Phillip K. Naithram: There’s a lot to do, but
Kim “KC’ Campbell: it’s roughly 300 miles per hour,
Phillip K. Naithram: faster than my Jeep Cherokee. Yeah.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: And when you’re at a hundred feet above the ground, it’s very fast. So, its speed is relative Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: It’s not its only that, you’re, you’re high, you’re low enough to where you can actually see the people or see people aiming at you.
So, you’ve got to be conscious of. And all of the instruments. So, you’re doing, you’re literally multitasking. A lot of people talk about multitasking. And, and, you know, I think a lot of it is just doing things consecutively, not necessarily all at the same time, but you’re actually doing multiple things at the same time.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, you have to write. And the hardest thing people will talk about the 10. And I say that it’s actually a very forgiving airplane to fly. It’s fairly easy to fly. It’s all the tactics that go with it of trying to make sure that you’re in the right position, that you have the situation of what’s going on the ground in terms of the ground scheme and maneuver.
You know, our role is to save lives. And so, we have to get in there quickly. So, it’s trying to do a lot of things at once, but also prioritize. And we use a term called aviate navigate communicate, which is where you focus on what’s most important first, which is flying the airplane. Those are those things you have to keep doing that you can’t stop doing.
And then we talk about navigating right? Having that situational awareness of our surroundings, and then communicating, letting in this case in flying is talking to our wing men, talking to the troops on the ground, but this works in this business world as well. It works in my everyday life. I’ve got to focus on what’s most important.
I have to have awareness of my surroundings, risk to mission leading a clear way forward for our team and then communicating. Ever, you know, is critically important right now in the world that we live with the pandemic, just being able to communicate and share those things. So, yeah. It’s funny how those things translate between the flying world in the business world as well.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah. Well, so I mean, how did you go about, it sounds like you built this muscle memory and you built these sorts of. It’s kind of, is it like driving a car where I don’t actually think about staying in the middle of the road, but I’m doing it because the reticular activating system is taking over and its repetition and just doing things over and over again.
Is that how you got there?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: I think preparation and the training is absolutely critical because. There will be moments when you are pushed to your absolute limits. And for me, that was in combat over Baghdad. When my airplane was hit with a surface to air missile. And in that moment of trying to recover the airplane, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t have time to ask for help.
I didn’t have time to even open our checklist. I just had to respond. And I think that’s where that training and preparation comes in. I take that into my life now. And I think about training and preparation for those critical moments, you know, it, it doesn’t have to be getting hit with a missile over Baghdad or a life-or-death situation.
You, I think we all have to be able to respond in critical moments and be able to take action. And for me, it’s all about preparation practicing and planning for contingencies. And so that. Doing the homework, you know, knowing that, knowing the data behind what you’re doing, doing your research it also is about practicing.
So, in the airplane, that means we do what we call chair flying, which is a visualization of the mission. Now for me, that’s a walkthrough with my team walking through a new decision or plan of action. And then the last step is planning for contingencies and that’s what. You don’t just think about when everything’s going, right.
You spend a little bit of time to focus on what could go wrong. And then most importantly, what will you do when that happens? And I think by doing that, like it, it takes some of the stress off. It takes some of the fear off that you can face in those critical moments. So yes, it is all about preparation, training, practice and planning for contingencies.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I think you just hit on a great topic that, you know, fear, like what takes fear away. You know, at least for me is having a plan, right? The fear of the unknown is really what I’m afraid of, you know? And, and a lot of it is selfish, fear, not getting what I want or losing what I have. Right. But
Kim “KC’ Campbell: that’s, that’s fair. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: You know, like that’s the only thing that, that that’s really, if you boil down, most of my fears, it, it probably comes to that. What’s generating that fear is this fear of unknown, but it’s, it’s the uncertainty. And I think that when I have a plan around what I’m going to do instead, or contingency plan, if it doesn’t work out, the fear tends to go away.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, it is. To me, I feel like that preparation, that training the fear doesn’t I would say maybe it doesn’t completely go away, but I feel a lot better about it. I feel a lot more conscious. You know, this, this is everything. I mean, like I said, it’s not just life or death or combat its fears that we all face it’s to me, fear is fear, right?
Whether it’s in combat or leading a team. I mean, as a leader, I faced fears. I, I was, you know, it’s hard to have those tough conversations to give somebody feedback. I mean, those moments, I feel fear, but if I can sit down and. Visualize walk myself through what I’m going to say, the conversation that I’m going to have then in that moment, I just, I feel so much better about going into it because I have a plan, I’ve thought through it versus just walking in cold.
So yeah, it’s, I mean, we face fears in our lives, leaders face fears all the time, and sometimes we’re afraid to ask. We’re afraid to take those actions, but those actions are incredibly important if we’re going to be a leader of courage. And so, to me, it’s, it all comes down to just have a plan, prepare, walk into it, knowing that, you know, sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned.
Sometimes things don’t go right. But take some time to think through it. And for me that’s been, I would say the antidote for fear because the fear is a little bit still there, but I feel better about it. I feel more confident
about it. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: It’s not a reason to not take the action. We can do it anyway, and we can do hard things to you.
Do you do things outside of you know, you’re planning and things, but in your personal life to kind of help you overcome that natural response of fear? Like, so I take cold showers. It’s never because I want. It’s always because I wake up pretty early in the morning. And one of the first things I do is take a cold shower.
And it’s, it’s me doing the opposite of what I want to do, but doing it anyway, you know, it never it’s what I’ve realized is that it’s never as cold as I think it’s going to be in my mind before I turn it on. It’s never as bad as I thought it was going to be. So that narrative that I was carrying. You know, I don’t always know what it’s actually going to feel like or what it’s going to be like.
It’s sometimes it’s not that bad and I do it anyway. And then I, I mean, I’m not a maniac. I turned it to normal, normal temperature, water. Do you have like practices? Do you do scary things all the time to keep, you know, building up that tolerance to do actions?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Maybe that’s my life. I don’t know, flying fighters.
I, I like to yeah, I like to push myself a little bit. I, you know I I’m very much into the outdoors. So, when I kind of get in that moment of feeling a little bit overwhelmed with life and there’s too much going on. I love to get out and do a very long hike. We do hikes here in Colorado at high altitudes.
I love to mountain bike, obviously a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. But it’s funny, those things that you were just saying are things that I talk to my kids about now, too, because I’ve seen it in myself where I can get worked up and worried about something. And then in the end, it’s never really as bad as sometimes we make it out to seem for ours.
And so those are conversations that I’m having with my young kids now trying to teach them the lessons that maybe I continually have to teach myself too. I mean, this, this is constant. I mean, it just doesn’t go away for me just because I’ve had all this experience in 24 years in the military. Like I still have these moments and I gotta remind myself, hey, it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be, take the time, put in the effort.
And then kind of let it go, you know, just let it go.
Phillip K. Naithram: And you guys have to kids. We do. How old are they?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: They’re nine and 13. Two boys. Yes, they, they you know, it’s funny, we just had our retirement ceremony, which was a little bit delayed due to COVID. My husband was in the service for 25 years. He retired last year and we just decided to have our ceremony.
And one of the things that I told the kids was they really put things into perspective for us. Helped us focus on what was most important, you know, when things got crazy and life got crazy, we kind of had to just bring it all into our central priorities. And so that’s one of the things that I was really, I’m really thankful for our kids, you know they’ve taught us a lot.
And they helped us really focus on priorities. Kept things in perspective for us.
Phillip K. Naithram: And so, your husband is also a pilot as well, right?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: He is. Yeah, we we’re both 10 pilots and it has served to serve together, deploy together. Yeah. So, we’ve had quite the wild ride in our gosh 49 plus years of service, total combined.
Phillip K. Naithram: Did you come from a military Family?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, it, yes. My dad was in the service. He went to the air force academy, but he only spent five years in. So, I wasn’t a brat where I moved and knew the military, but I learned about the military from him. Once I started asking the questions, once I told him that I was going to be a fighter pilot and go to the air force academy, I really started learning a little bit more about his experience as well.
Phillip K. Naithram: Did any of his experience, at least for that period of time wear off on you? As a young child. Can you think back, like what were some of those impactful memories?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: So, I decided in fifth grade that I, that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to be a fighter pilot. I was going to the air force academy.
And it all came about because of the challenger accident. I know maybe a little bit ironic, but for me, I recognize that the astronauts died doing something that they believed in something that was more important than themselves. And so, I just connected with that and this excitement of flight and. I was on a mission.
I mean, that was what I wanted to do. And my dad, once he realized that I was really committed, he so, helped me prepare, we did pull ups together. He, we went on, runs in our combat boots together. And so, it was really nice to have that support little did I know that women couldn’t actually fly fighters at the time.
This was 1986. My parents never told me that. I’m not sure it would stop me. But I really like. Gosh, my parents, both of them have been my role models and my heroes, my mom is an oncology nurse. And so just the example that they set for me absolutely had a huge impact on who I am too. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: What kind of, what kind of impact do you think you’re having on stop your two boys?
Just seeing both of their parents in the military, have they started talking about wanting to stop join the military?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: You know, it’s funny when they were younger, we would bring them to air shows and the Thunderbirds would be flying overhead and they were more excited about the firetrucks next to us.
Over time. I think they’ve realized a little bit, as they’ve gotten older, we’ve been able to share a little bit more about what we’ve done and yes, now I have two kids, one that one wants to go to the air force. And the other wants to go to west point and become a be in the special forces, but he’s nine.
So, we’ll see. There’s still time. But honestly, I, I love the idea of a commitment to service. If I’m honest, it scares me a little bit as a mom to have my kids go into the service, but now I know how my parents felt. Right. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: So, and how old were you? So, you went straight to the air force. And then you did some traveling.
How old were you or where were you getting these graduate degrees afterwards?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, I got an amazing opportunity. I was selected for a Marshall scholarship and spent two years in the United Kingdom after graduating from the academy, which was really fantastic because I could really focus on my academic degree.
And experienced life in a different culture and get that international experience as well. So, it was a tremendous opportunity. And then from there I went to pilot training. So, it was a little bit of a break if you will, from the academy life and academy experience before I started pilot training, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to just really focus on kind of the academic perspective for me.
Phillip K. Naithram: And did you know that you wanted to make a career out of being in the military
Kim “KC’ Campbell: I don’t think so. You know, I So, never really had these long-term plans and there were multiple times where I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue in the service mostly due to family issues and trying to work a joint spouse, having us both be in the military.
But over time I realized I absolutely loved it. I loved the commitment to service. I love the opportunity to lead young people. And, and so when you love what you do and you’re passionate about it, it makes it easy to stay. So, I don’t think I knew that I, that I was going to stay in for 24 years, but as time went on, I realized how much, how much it meant to me and how important it was to me.
So, it yeah, 24 years
Phillip K. Naithram: Where did you meet Scott? like how did you guys’ cross paths?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: We met at the air force academy as well. And
Phillip K. Naithram: were you traveling at the same time to the same places? Oh,
Kim “KC’ Campbell: no, no, no. We’ve spent many years apart in our early days of marriage. And I honestly, I think it’s made our relationship better.
We learn how to communicate very early on. We learned not to take each other for granted because we spend a lot of time apart. And I think, you know, the other thing for us was nine 11 happened. When I was in my initial attendance, we had never lived together at that point. And even though we had a house together at Pope air force base in North Carolina, after nine 11, we deployed at really a non-stop rate for almost five years.
And so, we, you know, it was a commitment to serve that, even though we were apart, we, you know, we try to spend as much time together as we could, but, you know, life was very different right after nine 11 and We were happy to contribute and do our part. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah. I mean, that was 2000, I mean, in 2003 was when you so, know, you were flying and you were, you were shot at, so that was only a couple of years later.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah. And I had deployed Afghanistan in 2002. My husband had deployed to Afghanistan in 2002. So, we were kind of back-to-back. I mean, talk about, you know, you go into this training, you do all this training and just really six months later, I found myself in combat in Afghanistan. It’s kind of goes back to what we were first talking about.
Right. You have to be ready. You have to put the effort in and time. Study, because you never know when that moment’s going to be when you’re going to be called on. And for me, it just came very early in that. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: You know, so I asked every leader that I talked to a couple, so there’s a question here and I call it the jumping off point.
And I like to describe it as a moment in time where you weren’t sure what you were going to do next, but you knew you couldn’t keep doing what you were doing. And it can also be a moment in time where it was very painful. Emotionally or even physically, maybe, and at the time you probably didn’t want it to be happening, but now you look back and you’re incredibly grateful for that, that time.
And for what happened, can you think back even, and it doesn’t have to be related to your mission in Afghanistan, it could be.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, so I’ve tried to re I tried to retire from the military three times. The third time is the actual time that I retired. So, there’s been multiple times where I’ve reassessed my career, but the one that sticks out to me most was a deployment that I did in 2010 to Afghanistan.
My son was a year old and I had to leave him for six. That was, that was hard. Not because I didn’t trust my husband, that he couldn’t take care of my son, but it was really hard. I had deployed multiple times before and this one just hit me because I didn’t want, you know, I didn’t want to leave him.
I, it was just really hard to go and deploy. It was a non-flying deployment. I was on the ground in Cabo. And I just kind of hit a point a really low in my career. I mean, even when I was deployed, I struggled. I was, you know, quite honestly feeling sorry for myself, that I was there and missing out on so much of his life.
And I told my husband that I was going to get out of the air force as soon as I got home. And that was the end for. And about a month. And I kinda got, you know, into the scheme of things and I realized what I was doing was important. I met people there, even though it was an individual augmentee employment where I was by myself without my unit.
I met people and met a lot of our international forces as well, and just recognize the commitment to serve and the commitment to what we were doing. And clearly, I did not get out in 2010. I stayed another 11 years. But it was a real low for me. Because it was probably one of the hardest moments to leave my son.
And not be a part and miss so many things. I’m so glad I stayed though, because obviously since that I’ve had tremendous opportunities, I’ve had the opportunity to command squadrons of 150 people to command groups of more than a thousand people and really make an impact on people’s lives. And then to end my career at the air force academy and impact the next generations.
Yeah. I, I look at that it was a super low in my life, and I’m really thankful that I didn’t jump off at that point, because of all the opportunities
Phillip K. Naithram: that followed
what kind of, what did, what were you doing to process all those feelings of like, you know, w what were you thinking about? Like you’re missing out on your, on your child’s childhood is one, right?
So that’s, it’s not like, and that was the younger son of the two. This is my older, the older son. So, it’s your first one. It sounds like your kind of just had him and then you had to
Kim “KC’ Campbell: have, he turned 2 while I was in Afghanistan.
Phillip K. Naithram: I mean, what were you doing? Like to just work through those emotions? I mean, that’s part of the skillset and the leadership that I really want to dig in. Cause you, I mean, you found a way to do it and I know you have some sort of like tools that I can, we can all learn from.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah. So, part of it was knowing that I didn’t have to go through that alone. I’m not very good at asking for help, but I realized in those. Times I needed to ask for help from my family to take care of, to help my husband and my son at home.
And then just kind of talk with the other people that were deployed there. You know, we were all kind of in the same boat together and just kind of sharing what we were going through. I think sometimes that feels very vulnerable to open up and let people know that your kind of, you know, hurting and frustrated with being there.
And, but I think when you share and talk to each other, That helps. Because then you don’t have to go through it alone. I also think there were moments where I had to really compartmentalize kind of your feelings about the deployment initially and missing my family at home. And for me, that meant just kind of putting it aside in the moment.
Right, right. Kind of in the crux of my mission and I’m working and have to really focus on. I have to kind of compartmentalize I say that, but you have to open that back up later, but you can’t just tuck it away and not deal with it. You know been there, done that, that doesn’t work well, it’s not healthy at some point, you know, in the moment and in the, in the heat.
Yes, it works. And then eventually you got to open that back up and have those conversations and kind of deal with the difficulties that, that you go through and face.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah. It sounds like you’ve found a way to give yourself the space to deal with those emotions when you had the space and you had other people to talk to.
I think that’s huge. You know, our ego is, is egos, not the amigo, but you know, yeah. It’s, it’s. Ego pride. These all sound like, you know, sometimes we have to go the other way. We have to pick ourselves up a little bit more. And sometimes we have to realize that like, you know, when I let go of that and I actually share with other people, they feel the same way I do.
Like they’re, you know, in my mind, I always think if I say something, they’re gonna be like, oh, this guy, he can’t get it together, or they’re going to somehow, no, one’s going to say, I hate you fill up. Right. It’s you’re a, and then you realize that, hey, we’re just people we’re going through this together. So that’s.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah. You know, I found that a lot during COVID when we’re on these virtual calls and, and leading my team. Being vulnerable and opening yourself up and showing that human side of leadership is hard. And as a leader, you kind of have to take that first leap, right? Your team is likely not going to do that unless you do, unless you set the example.
And so just sharing a little bit of like, life is hard right now. It’s hard to have kids at home and try to keep up with work and do all of those things. But once you open up and share that it, just, to me, it builds connection with your team. It creates this environment of trust that, you know, I’m not perfect.
I don’t have all the answers. You know, we’re all kinda in this together. And so, I think for me, I go back to this idea of leading with courage. Part of that courage is opening yourself up and being vulnerable and showing that human side of leader.
Phillip K. Naithram: To build a stronger connection, what about internal? Do you, do you practice any sort of self-talk or is that a big deal for you? Like, you know, the internal voice, it sounds just like us. My internal voice can be pretty mean to me sometimes. I don’t know why he talks to me like that.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah. For me, that comes out. If I’ve made a mistake or failed at something, you know, I have been known to beat myself up over that and to just keep beating myself up over and over and over.
Yeah, yeah. Not healthy by the way. I think being a fighter pilot in many ways helped me with that because a perfect sortie, a perfect mission. I mean, that’s, that’s like close to impossible. And so, it’s going in with a mindset that like, hey, we all make. We’re all gonna fail at some point. And so, it’s more about your mindset when that happens and what you do when that happens.
And so, it’s understanding that mistakes and failures, it’s an opportunity for growth. It’s an opportunity to improve. You gotta take those mistakes and failures and really kind of dig into them and debrief them and learn from them. And then you have to let them go, you know, just all right. I made a mistake.
Here’s why. Here’s what I’m going to do about it the next time, but now I’ve got to let it go. I say that it sounds, I don’t know. It sounds easy when I say it, but I still remind myself of that. You know, I will still walk myself through that and this is my personal life, my professional life. When I feel myself kind of beating myself up, I just remind myself, look, go back to what caused the. What can we do next time? What am I going to learn from it? And then I, I gotta move on. I gotta let it go.
Phillip K. Naithram: The mistake is a learning opportunity. Are you, is there, do you criticize yourself in your own voice or is there someone else, like a parent or an old coach or maybe someone?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: No, it’s definitely my it’s all, it’s all me. I’m my own worst critic. Right. You know, it’s definitely me.
Phillip K. Naithram: We all are. Yeah. What about, what about gratitude? Like I am, so I’m a big, I am statement person and I have this whole thing where I write it. I write it down, but that’s just my process. Do your kind of, is there something that you do at all to help you be a leader, like show up as your true self as a leader?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, I think sometimes when I start questioning, you know, should I be here? Can I do this? Is this the right thing? You know, am I the right person for this? It’s more of just reminding myself, like I’ve earned this, I’ve worked my butt off. I am credible. You know, I, I do have skills it’s that you know, you can call it the imposter syndrome, whatever you’d like to call it.
But I think, you know, we all have sometimes these doubts that we can feel about ourself in different moments, whether it’s parenting getting up on stage in front of thousands of people to speak or leading a team. I think when you feel those Scouts for me, it’s just reminding myself, like I’ve earned this.
I’ve worked really hard to get where I’m at. I have the skills. That’s why I’m here. And it’s important for me to share, like people, I feel like I have a lot of lessons and experiences that. Are important for me to share. It’s my way of, I guess, giving back and sharing some of those things that I’ve been through, because I, I feel like one of the reasons I got to where I am today is because people shared their stories, their experiences, their lessons learned with me.
And so, I, you know, I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to do that. It’s not always easy. I do sometimes doubt myself and that’s where I just kinda got to remind myself like, okay, I deserve to be here because I’ve earned it. I’ve worked hard. I’ve had a good attitude and you know, yeah. I do have a skill set that I, that is worthy of sharing.
So, it’s a, it’s more of a, maybe it’s an internal pep talk.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah, no, I mean, and we all need that. Sometimes it’s a, it’s a good reminder. I have this tendency where I kind of tamped down any sort of success, you know, sort of like almost like a fear of actually doing it right. Because I might mess it up later.
Right. Or this idea that like, you know, because I know all my secrets. I know, I know all the times that I was horrible to myself in my mind before this thing worked out and I’m not even sure it had anything to do with me. Right. Yeah. You know, and I know all those things, and I think when we talk about being a leader, we, like you said, so many things, like we have to open up to be able to talk about that in a peer group, but then also with the people that we’re trying to lead, because they need to see that we’re just people.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Versus people just like everybody else. And yeah, I think, you know, we can be pretty hard on ourselves. You know, we do know, you know, we, we know our background, we know we’ve where we’ve made mistakes. We know where we failed, but, you know, honestly, I look back at those moments. I’m better because of them, they were painful going through, but I’m better because of them.
I mean, I think back to one of my sorties, one of my missions, one of my flights when I was in pilot training and it was terrible. I mean, I, I did not do well and I really beat myself up about it. You know, I, I was in, I was flying in a formation ride, which is where you fly really close to somebody else in the airplane.
And my advisor. It’s not a big deal, except that I couldn’t see the airplane next to me, which is a little scary. And so, I wasn’t flying very well. I eventually said something to my exhibit, the flight examiner in the back seat. And he was like, all right, no big deal, move away, you know, clean your visor, get back in, which is what I should have done.
And I, and I did that, but then I kept thinking about how poorly I had flown before that. And I just, I couldn’t get it off my mind. Right. I couldn’t compartmentalize. And I just kept thinking about how terrible I did. And I did not do well on that ride. I got to let we call them red marks. They’re the downgrades that you get for your performance.
And it’s, you know, it’s not fun to see that on a grade sheet, but luckily, I had done well enough on the other rides, but that mission, that failure as I will call it learning that lesson of trying to learn, to learn from a mistake and then let it go. I mean, I mean, it, it has helped me through my entire career.
So sometimes those really painful moments where we kind of beat ourselves up. We see those mistakes. We know about them. Those experiences have really made me the person that I am today. It’s those hard things that you talk about, right? Forcing yourself to do those hard things. Like that’s really what makes you the core of who you are?
It’s not all the easy stuff that just comes easy.
Phillip K. Naithram: It’s the hard stuff. You know, most of the time it’s in my mind. And I think when, you know, in our minds, it’s going to look awesome. It’s going to feel great. We’re going to wear like, you know, the pants are gonna fit. It’s gonna be the perfect size. Haircuts can look great, whatever.
Right. And that’s never what, anytime I’ve ever been growing, I grow through pain. I have to, you know I don’t know if it’s suffering, but it’s definitely painful. But like you said, here you are, you wouldn’t be the fighter pilot that you are. Had you not made, so I bet you’re, you know, you knew exactly what to do the next time, your visor fogged up
Kim “KC’ Campbell: yeah. You know, and that happened in training, thankfully. But it’s the next time when you’re faced with like, oh, I did not do that. Well, and you just go, okay, no dad, don’t do it again. And then, and then move on, you know? Knowing that you can learn from those things, I think is the most important part.
I’m, I’m a huge fan of this idea of having a growth mindset. And it’s hard to have a growth mindset to look at failures as an opportunity for growth, because it’s much more comfortable to stay in that fixed mindset, right. Where we’re not, you know, we’re just going to stay in our comfort zone. We’re not going to try anything new.
We’re doing pretty well. Okay. That’s pretty good for the status quo, but where’s your opportunity for growth? Where’s your opportunity to access? Usually that happens because you’re taking some smart risks. You’re trying new things. You’re getting outside your comfort zone and then, you know, you can go from status quo to excelling I think in, in personal and professional life.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah. What do you think is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being a fighter pilot specifically? Maybe not necessarily just your military experience, but you’ve done anything. Right. But you were a fighter. Being who you are and it could be how you do the grocery shopping. I don’t know. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Okay. So, I guess if I had to really answer that question, I think it’s how to deal with fear which is probably a little bit more than grocery shopping, but I recognized now this is. Going to tell a story. That’s not something that I realized then, right. If I, it’s not, like I knew how to deal with fear and felt comfortable with it in 2003, because in 2003, when my airplane was hit with a missile after that mission, and after I landed from that mission with severe battle damage, somebody asked me afterwards, if I was scared and I said, no, I didn’t have time to be scared.
Because I was afraid to admit that I was scared. Right. I didn’t want to tell anybody that I was scared. I’m supposed to be this tough fighter pilot we’re invincible, you know, and then I went back and listened to the video the audio of my voice. And I can hear the fear in my voice when it happened.
And I just couldn’t admit it. I mean, it’s taken me, it took me years to admit it and recognizing that it is actually okay to be. It’s not so much the fear that matters. It’s what you do when you are afraid that matters. Right. We all face fears. It’s how we take action in that moment. Did I recognize in 2008, that in 2003 when it happened?
No, but over time I’ve been able to look back and kind of reflect and realize that I didn’t just face fears and flying that I was afraid to. I faced fears as a leader that I didn’t really want to share with anybody. Right. I’d be, you know, I’d be worried about having tough conversations with my team or trying something new, you know, there’s fear in there.
And so, it really, again, it comes down to it’s what you do when you are scared, that matters. And we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. When we feel fear, like it’s okay. It’s what you do in that moment. That really counts. So, I think that’s a lesson it’s taken me a long time to get to that lesson. I didn’t recognize it as that.
Overconfident ego fighter pilot. It’s something that I realized later much later after opportunities to lead our men and women in uniform.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah. What did you, and what did you coach that and teach that at the academy, when you were teaching there,
Kim “KC’ Campbell: I did. Yeah. You know, it’s nice to come back to the academy and where it all started for me.
You know, you can come back in. It’s much easier when you have progressed in rank and I’ve had this combat credibility, like it’s much easier to walk into a room and go, yeah. It’s okay. You know it’s much harder in my younger self to do that kind of thing, but I absolutely that that was a lesson and there’s so many that I try to share with our young cadets, you know to not be so hard on themselves because they’re gonna make mistakes, they’re gonna fail.
They’re gonna face hard things and they’re going to be afraid and that’s okay. It’s about taking action when they feel that way. It’s about stepping up and doing the hard things because it’s the right thing to do. So yeah, I absolutely shared that lesson and I continue to share it. I think it’s a lesson, not just for young people, it’s a lesson for all of us, maybe that we were taught or learned or thought about at some point, but it’s a lesson that I remind myself.
Phillip K. Naithram: Yeah. I need that lesson I needed, you know, and someone else told me recently that, you know, fear and excitement feel the same way in the body. So, you may just be excited to give yourself the opportunity to have a great. You know, because anything that’s new or different or uncomfortable, I associate in the brain as being fear.
And you know, it’s not that the bear is coming to eat me. You know, it just be, I don’t actually know what it’s gonna look like or feel like, but it could be great.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. We’ll likely be great. Right. If you’ve done the work you put in the effort, it will likely, right.
Phillip K. Naithram: Are you still going to be teaching at the academy while you’re doing your leadership training?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: No, I have officially retired from my duties at the air force academy, the official duties. Anyway, I still mentor a lot of our cadets. We have sponsor cadets and so I still find my way to make my way back there and, and be a part of something that was so important to me. But my official duties are officially done as I retired.
Phillip K. Naithram: Okay. And so, let’s talk about some of these this training and. People get in touch with you, what can they expect from those courses?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. So, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn. People can connect with me there and, and find more about what I do. Also reach out to victory strategies an amazing company and amazing team.
That really is passionate about leadership and about sharing some lessons that they’ve learned either in the military through Olympic sport, through business. And there’s an opportunity for workshops, executive coaching and speaking. Which is certainly my passion sharing those lessons, right.
Sharing the, the experiences. But that’s, that’s really the best way to get in touch with me. They can also email me at Kim dot Campbell, nine eight, email@example.com.
Phillip K. Naithram: And you and Scott are both do you guys compete at all to see who’s going to get more speaking engagements?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: No, you know, those days of competition or past, we always talk about who’s the better fighter pilot, but don’t ask us that question.
Cause we each have our own answer. But no, we you know, we work together. We actually speak together. We’ve done workshops together. So, it’s, it’s kind of exciting for us to make this transition together. We’re both part of the victory strategies team. And we we’re excited for this next chapter of our lives and to, you know, share some of the things that we’ve learned together as a couple as well.
In, you know, making it work. And not always easy, sometimes challenging, but those are things that we think are important. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: Well, that’s awesome. I mean, hopefully you don’t mind me saying this. I mean, you guys have like, you know, people talk about relationship goals and couple goals and just, you know, you’ve had this amazing career, you’ve done it together.
You’re raising your kids. You’ve learned so much and now you’re giving back those lessons that we can all benefit. Right. Whether you’re in leadership or not, you know, whether I’m just someone who’s like, I just, I want to continue to improve this person that I am. I’m not necessarily a leader of, you know, anything special, but it’s every day I show up and I want to just get 1% better and I need stories from people like you and Scott and what you guys are doing.
So, I really appreciate you taking some time to share with me, but then also just what you’re doing.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. You know, thanks for having me, it’s it really, you know, I, as I look back on 24 years of military service you know, it’s, it’s hard, it’s hard to leave. It’s been such a part of who I am.
And so, for me, it’s about finding a new way to serve. And my retirement ceremony was just on Friday. And as I stood on the stage at the end, it was all about an opportunity to say thank you to all those people that impacted me that helped. Throughout my career. I mean, we could not have done it without help, without people around us, without people to share with us, without people to mentor, mentor us.
And it’s really an opportunity to give back and in a new way, in a different way. And we’re excited to do it. We’re excited to do it together. And you know, at the end of the day, at the end of your time and your career or whatever it is, it was really rewarding for me to look on that stage and have my husband standing by my side and my kids there and my family.
And know that, you know, we’ve made it, but we made it together. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: So, you guys live in Colorado. Are you staying there? Are you going to move around or?
Kim “KC’ Campbell: no, we’re staying put in Colorado. We love the outdoors. Our family loves the outdoors. The kids are done with moving. They’re done with moving schools.
And so, they’re really happy to stay. So, Colorado is like a great home for us. Yeah.
Phillip K. Naithram: Well, great. Well, thanks again for spending some time with us this week.
Kim “KC’ Campbell: Yeah, thanks for having me. It was great. Great to chat with you and I’m glad we made it happen.