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BCHS student is first to head to AF Academy

Appointment comes as no surprise to Melissa Campbell’s teachers

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POSTED: February 1, 2014 10:00 a.m.
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Bryan County High School senior and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet Melissa Campbell stands with Maj. Charles Mercer, head of the JROTC program and who was instrumental in helping Campbell get into the Air Force Academy.

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Bryan County High School senior Melissa Campbell, the school’s first student to win an appointment to a military academy, intends to fly fighter jets for a living someday.

And that’s not all.

A sergeant who knows her well says she’ll make a fine general officer if she makes the military a career — and others say the Air Force Academy-bound Campbell can do anything she wants to do and probably will.

So far, the 17-year-old has made a habit out of proving people right.

Just ask Bryan County High School assistant principal Dr. Rod Bachman, himself a West Point alumnus and retired Army officer.

He knew Campbell had the right stuff to win an appointment to a military academy when she was just a freshman.
Or ask Dr. Dawn Hadley, the school’s principal, who said she knew from the start Campbell would be special.

“It is no surprise to me that Melissa Campbell is headed to the Air Force Academy,” Hadley said. “When I first met her, she was a sophomore at BCHS, but I could tell right away that she was going places.”

Maj. Charles Mercer, the advisor for the BCHS Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps battalion, is another who predicted big things early on for Campbell, who grew up in Florida but moved to Pembroke when her father got a job as a police detective on Fort Stewart.

“I was impressed with her from the start. From our first meeting I knew she was special,” Mercer said. “She’s really got a lot of things going for her. When I first met her, both myself and the sergeant with me at the time, we both knew she was a future JROTC battalion commander.”

Campbell was a freshman at the time. She’s now the BCHS JROTC battalion commander. And Mercer said once she put her mind to getting into the Air Force Academy, he knew it was a done deal.

“I knew it in my heart, like it had already happened,” he said, calling Campbell “a very special, very unique person.”

“She has a basic humility and she has very high values,” he said. “She has traditional values and she has a great spirit about her.”

Those qualities set Campbell apart, according to the Redskin Battalion’s current top enlisted man, retired Sgt. 1st Class Stevie Stringer. He said Campbell’s drive and willingness to learn set her apart.

“If she stays in the military, I guarantee you she’ll be a general officer.” he said before giving Campbell perhaps the highest praise an enlisted man can give an officer. “I would serve with her any time, any where.”

For Campbell, the appointment to the Air Force Academy still seems a bit surreal. She said it’s hard to describe what it’s like to realize a dream she pursued in earnest for at least two years.

Campbell found out in November she had been accepted. But she didn’t get official word until Dec.12, when she got a call from a staffer from Congressman Jack Kingston’s office telling her the good news.

“When I got the call telling me I’d gotten in, I dropped to my knees and I almost started crying,” she said, noting she was in school when the call came in, so she raced to tell Bachman and others while also notifying family and friends.

“It was such a blessing (to get the call),” Campbell said. “Especially right before Christmas. The only thing I had been praying for was I got in and could make that happen.”

Read more in the Feb. 1 edition of the News.

 

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