Latane Campbell '81
The pilot discusses leadership, service, and the two most important things he learned at EHS.
Episcopal was not all smooth sailing for Latane Campbell ’81. He was smaller than the other boys, he says, and the academics at Episcopal were challenging for him. However, it was on The Holy Hill that he learned the importance of perseverance and grit, the two traits that helped him through college, flight school, six years of active service in the Air Force, nine years in the Air Force Reserve, and 25 years as a captain for commercial airlines. “Episcopal made us all feel like we had the tools, including the competitive nature and the perseverance, to stand out among our peers and be seen as leaders,” he says.
After graduating from Episcopal, Latane attended the University of Virginia, where he majored in German after being inspired by his EHS German teacher, Mr. Six. It was his strong interest in language and culture that enabled Latane to pursue a career in the Air Force. “I wanted to travel and see the world; that’s one of the reasons I joined the Air Force,” he says. Latane was able to complete his first Air Force assignment in Germany, in great part due to his German language skills. “Language has opened doors my entire life, even today as an airline captain. I can pick up a German accent with customers and carry on a conversation with them.”
What has been your favorite part of your career?Your readers might find this interesting – it’s when I got paid the least. I was working in the Reserves at Andrews Air Force Base, training all of the Pilot in Command applicants. It was an inti- mate job. You work with them for almost three years to get them ready for their check rides, and then you send them to the most important check ride of their life. That was so incredibly satisfying because people recognized me personally for being very good at that job. I was a teacher, basically, and my core principle was that anybody can perform if they have confidence. The job of a teacher is to build people’s confidence so that they can relax and perform. If you can relax, you will do well.
What has been the most difficult part of your career?When you go through flight training in the Air Force, you have people telling you 24/7 that you’re not good enough. But that’s all part of the equation, and you have to get over it. You have to go out and have grit and perseverance. Sometimes the hardest thing in your professional career is getting over yourself and getting out of the way of your own insecurities or hubris. It’s something that everybody has to go through. There’s a fine line between promoting yourself and wanting to be great, and being a servant to society. Episcopal did a good job of teaching us how to serve something bigger than ourselves.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about going into military service?It is a tremendous privilege to serve in the military. It is a privilege to serve your country, and the people you are serving with are all spectacular. If you can get things done, you will stand out in your professional career. Show me that you’ve achieved something that was hard, that you had to stick with, that took a long time. That’s the mark of a great person.