SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — A U.S. Air Force noncommissioned officer born in El Salvador was promoted to master sergeant before family and military representatives from the United States and El Salvador in his hometown during a promotion ceremony Oct. 29.
Master Sgt. Fred Campos, a logistics planner for Special Operations Command South, moved to the United States when he was 8 years old and lived with his uncle in Seattle.
Campos, who lost his father during El Salvador’s civil war, was granted political asylum by the United States due to the conflict in 1983. El Salvador’s civil war began in 1980 and ended in 1992. An estimated 75,000 people died during the conflict.
Although his situation improved when he arrived in the United States, Campos said, he faced many obstacles in his new country. His limited English was one of the biggest hurdles he had to overcome when he found himself to be the only Spanish-speaking student in his school. Undeterred by his language limitation and with the help of his teachers and hard work, he began to learn English by reading children’s books.
“It took time, but eventually I was able to learn the basics in six months,” he said. His family later moved to Tucson, Ariz., where he graduated from Canyon Del Oro High School in 1994.
After attending a couple of months of community college following his high school graduation, Campos said, he decided to join the Air Force.
“When I first came in, I was very limited with the jobs I could do in the Air Force because I did not have a security clearance since I wasn’t a U.S. citizen,” Campos said. “I was getting frustrated because I wanted to do more in the Air Force, but my family encouraged me to stay and continue my service.”
Campos decided to stay in the Air Force, and he earned his citizenship through the military in 1998. Now, after 16 years of military service, Campos has been promoted in a familiar but unexpected setting.
“I often travel abroad to coordinate logistics that support military exercises,” he said. “I never thought that I would ever be promoted here, in the place where I was born, in front of my closest relatives.”
Campos was one of several servicemembers in El Salvador participating in the Fuerzas Comando 2011 initial planning conference. Fuerzas Comando is a military exercise that includes a special operations skills competition and a senior leader seminar designed to foster regional relations and improve interagency cooperation. Security forces from more than 20 countries will take part in the exercise in June.
Col. Walter Arevalo, the commander of the Salvadoran Special Operations Brigade, said El Salvador is proud of Campos’ accomplishment and that he felt honored that his soldiers were able to share this special moment.
“We have served with many U.S. military members in Iraq who came from Salvadoran descent. We have always been proud of them,” Arevalo said. “We are honored to see an American servicemember with Salvadoran roots be promoted here in our country. We congratulate him on his success.”
Given their history and the difficult experiences that resulted from the past, the promotion ceremony was an emotional event for Campos and for his family members who were in attendance.
“I hope that El Salvador never experiences what it experienced before during the war,” the newly promoted master sergeant said. I hope that my military service and my work here benefits El Salvador in the future.”
From a Special Operations Command South News Release
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)