By Sharon McElhone
Kim Campbell has been flying the A-10, an aircraft designed to take out targets and help troops on the ground, for six years. She’s spent a total of six months in Afghanistan and six months in Iraq and Kuwait, and in 2003 she flew a close air support mission over Baghdad. On that particular mission, she was hit by a surface to air missile but was able to get the aircraft under control and get out of Baghdad. Besides helping ground troops and taking out targets, she has flown on humanitarian missions there as well, such as when a dam burst. They used targeting pods to locate people on roofs and on the ground and then sent that information to troops. This is her job: Pilot for the U.S. Air Force.
She cannot speak to the policy of the war; she can only speak to her experiences as a pilot while on duty in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. And in spite of the strong opposition to the war in Iraq, she believes the U.S. is really making a difference in the Middle East. “There are things we are doing over there that are important, that are making changes… It’s very difficult to be away from home, but believing in what we do and knowing there is support from home makes a huge difference,” she comments.
The only difference with her experiences in the Middle East and with what’s being portrayed by our administration are the telling of the “good stories,” which she says U.S. citizens are missing out on. For example, she went out into some of the villages in Afghanistan and donated clothes from the States. “It was neat to see how thankful they are. It’s just one small piece but I know it’s happening all over.” She also adds that her experience as a pilot is a little different because she rarely leaves the base. Her information comes from people she knows that are in Iraq and who go out into the cities everyday. They say there are schools opening, as well as community centers. “I just don’t think we get to see enough of that,” she says.
In addition, she thinks the world is a safer place than five years ago. “People get so concerned that it isn’t a safer place because they focus on it more, it’s talked about more, it’s in the news more. But the key is, if we go to Afghanistan and Iraq and fight the terrorist there, that means we don’t have to fight them here in the United States, and I think people forget about that. I think people sometimes forget about September 11th. We have to continue to be strong and to do the things to prevent the terrorist from coming into the U.S. I think it’s a very scary thought. We see IED’s (improvised explosive devices), and it’s very scary to think that that could occur in the U.S.”
When acknowledging her father, Chuck Reed, who is running for mayor, she says he’s been working in public office for sometime, and he sees that things aren’t being done the way he would like them to be done. “I think he has such a great idea of how to move forward, to fix the problems first—do that quickly and then move forward.” Even though she hasn’t lived in San Jose for many years, she’d like to see downtown San Jose built up a little more in a way that people would spend more time there. Whether it’s restaurants, bars, stores, or shopping.
This mayoral race, though, has gotten ugly, and her advice to each candidate on how to stay focused on the issues rather than try and disgrace the opponent is to be honest and straightforward. She adds, “Unfortunately a lot of it is politics. What is important are the issues that the voters care about and sticking to that. The advice is to listen to what the voters want. What are the people of San Jose saying are the most important issues?”
Her plans for the future? She hopes to go to Air Command and Staff College and then go on a staff tour to learn more about the bigger picture military; then go back to flying the A-10. “I love what I do; I also want a family. I’d like to do both.”