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    Marine on mission to prevent suicide wins DoD Spirit of Hope Award

    Marine Receives DoD Spirit of Hope Award

    Photo By Cpl. Santicia Ambriez-Stippey | Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Ashish S. Vazirani...... read more read more



    Story by Betty Snider 

    Marine and Family Programs

    Marine Corps Capt. Jergen “Cam” Campbell never imagined his name would be mentioned in the same sentence as Bob Hope.
    But Campbell, who enjoys doing standup and is doing an Armed Services Arts Partnership comedy boot camp on weekends, finds himself being recognized as the Marine Corps recipient of the Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award for 2023.
    Created in honor of the late comedian and devoted United Service Organizations performer, the award is given to individuals and organizations that epitomize the selfless service and dedicated commitment to service members that Hope displayed. The awards were presented in a ceremony at the Pentagon on Sept. 14.
    “It’s humbling to be held in the same regard,” said Campbell, 38, who is currently assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps as a uniformed advisor to the Suicide Prevention Capability.
    Before arriving at Marine Corps Base Quantico in July, Campbell served as the manpower officer and Suicide Prevention Program officer for Marine Aircraft Group 12 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan. He was nominated for the work he did there to boost morale and integrate prevention efforts, but he is quick to say it was a team effort.
    Col. Derek Bannon was the commanding officer of MAG 12 when Campbell was in Iwakuni.
    “He became interested in taking care of the individual Marines,” Bannon said. “Regardless of rank, regardless of position, it was very easy to go talk to Capt. Campbell. He would easily share what’s he’s been through.”
    But, according to the colonel, Campbell never spent time complaining about his own past difficulties. “It was always about the individual he was talking to.”
    While in Japan, Campbell helped launch a Team Iwakuni Resiliency Huddle to build relationships among Marines and civilians assigned to Marine Corps Community Services by meeting over lunch every two weeks.
    He hoped to connect members of the Operational and Stress Control and Readiness Team (OSCAR) with other prevention stakeholders, including counselors, chaplains, and Navy medical personnel.
    They talked about what was working, what needed improvement, and how they could work to prevent a range of harmful behaviors.
    One initiative was to offer positive outlets for Marines to decompress and spend time with one another.
    Campbell and his prevention partners organized open mic nights at local restaurants and at the base chapel to give Marines, Sailors, families, and civilians a chance to express themselves through comedy, poetry, and music.
    They also held Iwakuni Castle runs every week where service members and civilians—including some of the Resilience Huddle participants—ran or hiked up 1,700 feet to “earn the sunrise together,” Campbell said. While building total fitness, the castle runs also gave Marines a reason to make good choices the night before the run; for example, declining a night out at the bar because they had to be up at 4 a.m.
    Campbell’s passion for suicide prevention and strengthening cohesion stems from his personal experience.
    He joined the Marine Corps in 2002, getting permission from his parents to join at 17 and serve his country in the wake of 9/11. “I decided I would rather die for something rather than continuing to live for nothing, which is what I was doing.”
    The native of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia had some scrapes with the law as a teen and had dropped out of school after the eighth grade. He earned a GED diploma at 16 thanks to the Virginia National Guard Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy, a quasi-military environment that helps at-risk youth. Campbell plans to volunteer as a mentor with them while he is back in Virginia.
    Campbell started his career as a field radio operator, eventually deploying to Iraq in September 2004. The first of his three children was born two months later; his wife was also a Marine field radio operator at the time.
    After serving as a drill instructor, becoming a staff sergeant, and taking some college classes, Campbell applied for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Program. He was promoted to gunnery sergeant while in school, earned his bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University, and then graduated from The Basic School.
    His first duty station as an officer was at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California, and he experienced difficult moments.
    He was a geographical bachelor the first year and felt isolated as one of only a few Marines on the base.
    “I was too officer for the enlisted; I was too enlisted for the officers,” Campbell said. “Then I was in the middle of the desert by myself.”
    He remained highly distressed “for too long without seeking help,” he said. He had more than one night where he had had too much to drink and felt so low that he contemplated suicide.
    He finally sought the help he needed, and the professionals helped him make sense of what he was experiencing. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, which surprised him because he didn’t think his tour in Iraq justified that. But the therapist told him: “I’m not diagnosing you for your time in; I’m diagnosing you for your childhood.”
    When Gen. Robert Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, wrote “We are all ‘broken’ in our own way—and we all need help at times,” in a letter to Marines in 2019, it resonated with Campbell.
    He quit drinking on Memorial Day that year, and he started looking for positive ways to spend his time. He started PT nights for the Marines and families at China Lake, building the same types of connections forged in the initiatives he would later spearhead at Iwakuni.
    “We had to take care of each other in a different way there,” Campbell said.
    The Communication Strategy section at Iwakuni tapped Campbell to appear on Armed Forces Network broadcasts to promote healthy outlets and suicide prevention, impacting more than 3,000 personnel aboard the installation.
    Campbell hopes to continue making a difference in his new role at HQMC. He wants to promote the potential of OSCAR Teams in the fight to prevent suicide, because he believes “Marines have to take care of Marines.”



    Date Taken: 09.14.2023
    Date Posted: 09.14.2023 15:53
    Story ID: 453463
    Location: QUANTICO, VA, US

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