Kim “KC” Campbell (KC = “Killer Chick”) is a retired Air Force Colonel who served in the Air Force for over 24 years. She has flown 1,800 hours in the A-10 Warthog, including more than 100 combat missions protecting troops on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2003, Kim was even awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism after successfully recovering her battle-damaged airplane after an intense close air support mission in Baghdad. Kim is the author of Flying in the Face of Fear: A Fighter Pilot’s Lessons on Leading with Courage.

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  • On January 28, 1986,  the challenger rocket exploded (killing all astronauts on board). On that day, Kim learned what it meant to serve something bigger than yourself. She decided she wanted to be an astronaut and serve something bigger than herself.
  • A big influence in Kim’s life was a high school teacher named Mrs. Kennett. She helped Kim on the speech and debate team. One of her arguments was about women being allowed to be combat pilots.
    • Mrs. Kennett worked to create “power women.”
  • Response to Rejection: Initially Kim got rejected by the Air Force Academy because of a low SAT score. In response, instead of quitting and moving on, she wrote a letter to them every week stating why they should accept her… Which they eventually did.
    • “The tough moments make you better.” The initial rejection was a blessing in disguise.
  • How to crush the interview process?
    • Prepare… Walk through potential questions and rehearse your stories. Role play with a mentor.
    • Be you. Be real. Be authentic
    • Create a connection with all in the room. Look them in the eye. Be genuine.
  • Like father, Like daughter — just before Kim’s final year at the academy, she earned the position of Cadet Wing Commander. This is a position her dad held 25 years earlier. They were the first father-daughter wing commander duo in academy history.
  • A woman in a man’s world: When Kim started pilot training in 1999, there were 33 female fighter pilots in the Air Force. About 1% of fighter pilots.
  • Kim’s choice of airplane was the A10 WartHog. The airplane was designed first with the 30 mm Gatling gun on it in mind: capable of shooting 3,900 rounds per minute.
  • The leader sets the culture. They decide what to create and what to allow.
  • Kim was on a combat support mission in Baghdad when her airplane was hit. She had to make a split-second decision about whether to exit the aircraft behind enemy lines or try to fly it back to a safer area…
  • Commanders intent – Your why is the way forward. You allow your team to take action and make decisions. “Explain the why. Explain the context. Let the lower level leaders make decisions and run with it.”
  • Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech resonates with Kim.
    • “We feel fear and freeze. We can’t let fear paralyze us. We need to take action in the face of fear. Remain calm. Acknowledge the fear and move forward.”
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