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20 years later: Col. Kim Campbell reflects on her time as an Air Force fighter pilot

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Retired Air Force Col. Kim Campbell was shot down in her plane nearly 20 years ago in downtown Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Miraculously, her training and demeanor kept her safe and alive to share her heroic journey since that day.

Campbell has flown nearly 2,000 hours in an A-10 Warthog, rising to the top of a traditionally male-dominated industry as an Air Force fighter pilot.

(Air Force Times)

Almost 20 years ago exactly, Campbell began a close air support mission in downtown Baghdad after she was told troops on the ground were being fired upon. Using guns and rockets from her own plane, Campbell fired at the enemy trying to relieve pressure from the men and women on the ground.

"As I was coming off target, is when I felt and heard a large explosion in the back of the plane and I knew immediately my plane was hit. It was completely uncontrollable," Campbell said.

The plane dove toward the ground.

“I remember diving down towards Baghdad below. [...] I wasn’t sure if I was going to crash. I knew that I had to do everything I could to get that plane back under control.”

At the time, Campbell said she didn't even have time to feel fear. However, going back and listening to the video of the incident, she admits she hears the worry in her voice.

Campbell recalled debating whether she should eject. She said her extensive training kept her calm and focused, eventually allowing her to regain control of the war-torn plane.

In 2003, Campbell was awarded the "Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism" for her stellar work that day.

After serving in the Air Force, Campbell returned to her Alma Mater, the Air Force Academy, to become an instructor. She said it was one of her most significant sources of pride to be able to give back to an organization she said gave her so much.

"To be able to serve our next generation of leaders was really important to me," Campbell said.

Campbell documented her incredible career in a book titled, "Flying in the Face of Fear." You can buy it wherever books are sold.

However, if you'd like to meet Kim, she is doing a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Briargate on Saturday, Mar. 25.

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Riley Carroll

Riley is a weekend anchor and reporter for KRDO. Learn more about her here.


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