“There’s A War Coming And I’m A Soldier”: Service In Vietnam As An Enlisted Engineer And A Pathfinder Officer

Steve Campbell


Steve Campbell was born in Charleston, West Virginia, and spent much of his childhood in an orphanage, the St. John’s Home for Boys. After high school, he enlisted in the West Virginia National Guard and was assigned to the 16th Special Forces Group (Airborne). After Basic Training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, he attended Combat Engineer School at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. After transitioning to active duty, he was assigned to A Company, 12th Engineer Battalion, in the 8th Infantry Division in Germany. As the war in Vietnam expanded, he volunteered for service there in March 1965. He joined 2nd Platoon, C Company in the 588th Combat Engineer Battalion, and served as a senior combat demolitions specialist, gaining valuable experience disarming landmines, emplacing and disarming booby traps, and blowing up bunkers. He extended his first tour by 6 months before returning to the United States as a Staff Sergeant, assigned to the 307th Engineer Battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division. He then received a commission through OCS (Officer Candidate School) and completed Pathfinder School. Before returning to Vietnam in 1971, he attended a Vietnamese language class and was expecting to be assigned to PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) for 5th Special Forces Group. Instead, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, and joined a pathfinder team assigned to Fire Support Base Brick. During his second tour in Vietnam, he supported air assault operations for the 101st Airborne Division as well as for various South Vietnamese units. He then took an assignment with radio research at Phu Bai, where he established a company-sized element of Chieu Hoi volunteers and others for counter-insurgency missions. Returning to the United States in May 1972, he was assigned to Ft. Benning before a serious automobile accident ended his career. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his service, and his post-military career. He highlights his experiences in Germany and Vietnam both as an NCO and as an Officer. He discusses Pathfinder operations and different missions he was on. Finally, he reflects on what his service means to him.


conflicts Cold War Vietnam War
topics Courage Leadership Teamwork Pathfinder
interviewer David Siry
date 22 July 2019


name Steve Campbell
service Infantry
unit A Company 12th Engineer Battalion, 8th Infantry Division; 588th Combat Engineer Battalion; 307th Engineer Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division; 325 PIR, 82nd Airborne Division; Pathfinder Platoon, 101st Airborne Division
specialty OCS, Pathfinder
service dates 1961 1974