Meet AFCEA Distinguished Lifetime Member Col. Alan D. Campen, USAF (Ret.)
Today, AFCEA distinguished lifetime member Col. Alan D. Campen, USAF (Ret.), would call it “offensive information operations.” But in 1944, when Radioman 3rd Class Campen was manning CW HF net NPN6 out of Guam, the persistent attempts by a Japanese radioman to insert Z signals and disrupt his network were easily countered. “I knew his fist,” quips Col. Campen.
Communications can be considered a common thread woven into Col. Campen’s long and storied life and career. As a teenage ham radio operator, the colonel enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 and attended radio operators school at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. He served in a naval communications unit during the campaign to recapture Guam.
He joined college classmates in forming an Illinois Air National Guard fighter squadron and was directly commissioned and attended the Air Force Communications Officer School at Scott Field. He later served in communications squadrons on Guam; Lake Charles, Louisiana; Barksdale, Louisiana; Morocco; and Spain.
As an Air Force staff officer, he spent four years at Strategic Air Command headquarters working with the Army Corps of Engineers to build command centers capable of surviving nuclear attacks. The colonel later worked on contracts for survivable high-frequency and satellite-based communications.
Col. Campen served as a communications staff adviser to the South Vietnamese Air Force in the 1960s and for four years on the Air Staff in the Pentagon before assuming command of the Air Force Communications Service (AFCS) United Kingdom (UK) Region and the role of assistant chief of staff, communications, U.S. Air Force, 3rd Air Force.
The colonel served as chief of staff at AFCS before assuming his final posting as commander, Defense Communications Agency-Europe.
Upon retirement from the military, he became a vice president at the BDM Corporation before accepting a political appointment in the Reagan administration as director, command and control policy, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. In this position, he processed the paperwork that defined civilian use of military Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities.
Col. Campen aided the National Defense University staff in forming its ground-breaking School of Information Warfare and Strategy, lecturing there for many years as an adjunct professor. He also was a guest lecturer for more than 10 years at the National Security Agency’s National Cryptologic School.
The colonel says that he joined AFCEA more than 50 years ago when his boss, Col. Gordon Gould, USAF, suggested that he do so. He served as president of AFCEA’s London Chapter and went on to become AFCEA’s European regional vice president. He managed AFCEA International Press for many years and was instrumental in transitioning SIGNAL Magazine into one of the nation’s first digital publications. He continues as an editorial contributor and consultant to SIGNAL Magazine.
Col. Campen’s military decorations include the Legion of Merit with three Oak Leaf Clusters; the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters; the Air Force Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters; and the Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger for his service as director of command and control policy, Office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. AFCEA has recognized him with a Man for All Seasons Award and has made him a distinguished lifetime member of the association.
The tradition of service runs deep in Col. Campen’s family. In December 2003, one of the first editions of the SIGNAL Connections newsletter profiled Col. Campen’s son, Tim, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel with his own distinguished career; Col. Campen himself; and his grandson, Andrew, who is today a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard. Col. Campen proudly reports that next month, his grandson will follow in his digital footsteps, as he takes command of Coast Guard information systems along the East Coast.