CAPT Campagna ’93 West Point’s First Aircraft Carrier Commander
In a rare and amazing event, Petaluma, California native, CAPT Paul F. Campagna ’93 assumed command of the USS EISENHOWER aircraft carrier on December 17, 2020, at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, becoming the first grad to command an aircraft carrier.
After completing the U.S. Army Aviation Officer Basic Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama in 1994, Campagna was designated an Army Aviator and assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he served as a platoon leader in D Troop 2-17 Cavalry, Aviation Brigade S-2 and qualified as an OH-58C Pilot in Command.
CAPT Campagna was flying OH-58Cs in 2-17 CAV, 101st Airborne Division as a platoon leader when the Army was transitioning to the OH-58D. He was not selected to transition and would have probably been done flying. There were some officers in 1-101st who were doing an inter-service transfer to the USAF to fly helicopters, so CAPT Campagna started researching it along with CAPT Mark Kempf ’93 and LCDR Thomas Paudler ’93. They found that the regulation was normally used for chaplains and doctors, but it was not exclusive. The Air Force said they would take them as helicopter pilots, and the Navy told them they could go to flight school and fly whatever was available. They were lucky to have had the support of the 2-17 CAV commander, LTC Roberson, who had almost transferred to the Coast Guard when he was a captain and understood their desire to continue service helped get the packages endorsed. They were soon joined in the application process by CAPT Bobby Baker ’93, and within a year, all were in flight school in Pensacola, Florida. Full story.