Fightertown West Point grads fly-over Army/ Navy game

2 Dec 2006 | Lance Cpl. Monique Smith

Two pilots from Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 86 flew over the 107th Army/ Navy football game last Saturday. As two Navy pilots, it may be assumed that they were cheering for the Naval Academy Midshipmen, but in reality, these two West Point graduates were rooting for the opposing team, the Army Black Knights.The journey has been one that is not often heard of for two Navy pilots currently serving here with VFA-86. The uniqueness of their story began after the two graduated from the United States Military Academy, otherwise known as West Point. Lt. Cmdr. Paul Campagna, a department head for VFA-86 and Lt. Cmdr. Bobby Baker, the maintenance officer with the Sidewinders became good friends while attending flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., while training to become Army helicopter pilots.Campagna, who graduated in 1993, says he decided to go to West Point because he wanted to be a helicopter pilot.“I read a book in the 8th grade and ever since then, I wanted to be a helicopter pilot,” Campagna said. “My family didn’t have a lot of money so, West Point seemed like a good choice because I would be able to train to fly helicopters.”Baker, who also graduated in 1993, says he wanted to go to West Point to follow in his family’s footsteps of serving in the Army.“I come from a family of Army men,” Baker said. “My dad was a Green Beret in Vietnam and my granddad was a World War II hero with field artillery, so they pushed me in that direction when I was a senior in high school.While they were both in flight school the Army decided it would be phasing out all of the Vietnam-era helicopters they had been training to fly. Soon after, the Army realized they had too many pilots. Both Campagna and Baker sought aviation opportunities elsewhere and ended up finding those opportunities in the Navy.“I had never flown planes, only helicopters,” Baker said. “ But an opportunity to fly came up and I took it.”“I was done flying in the Army, but I still wanted to serve,” Campagna said, “I chose to take a longer contract to get out of the Army and join the Navy so I could still fly.This past Saturday, both Campagna and Baker were given a chance to rekindle their Army pride, as they were part of a four-jet formation that performed a fly-over before the start of the Army/ Navy game. The other two Navy pilots were Naval Academy graduates.“(The fly-over) was a great experience,” Baker said. “We got to go down on the field and meet some West Point grads.”Both Campagna and Baker said they get teased by Naval Academy graduates all the time, but while they are both Navy pilots they have not forgotten their Army roots.“I am grateful to be in the Navy,” Campagna said. “But I went to West Point, so that’s who I root for.”
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