POWIDZ, Poland –
The Soldiers of the 652nd Regional Support Group stood huddled around a large metal storage container that had just arrived at Powidz Air Base, Poland, from the United States. When the container’s creaky doors swung open, the first thing the Soldiers saw was the unit’s wooden flag stand.
The stand is a beautiful red and yellow rectangular-base box, holding the American flag and unit colors, which cross at approximately a 45-degree angle above the center of the stand. The unit’s name and home station is spelled out on the front face of the stand, which tapers into a smaller rectangular top from the base. The stand made it to Powidz from Helena, Montana, in one piece. But its story was not as simple.
Over the last three months, U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. James Campbell designed and built a wooden flag stand to hold the 652nd’s colors and the U.S. flag. The 652nd arrived in Poland September 26 to oversee the operation of 10 base camps throughout the country.
“I heard that the Col. Herzog (the 652nd’s commander) wanted a flag stand after her visit to Poland,” said Campbell. “I have the ability to build it, so I decided to do it.”
Each unit in the military has a unit flag that represents only that unit. The unit flag, or colors, represent the unit regardless of where they are in the world. Colors are posted in a central location for all to see. They are symbolic of a Soldier’s identity and pride.
“The stand is a lasting piece of equipment that stays with the unit indefinitely. We didn’t have one for 20 years,” Campbell explained. “This is part of something that stays even when I’m gone, it’s my legacy.”
Campbell’s woodworking skills came from years of experience and the love of building things. He worked for a large fabrication company that constructed parts of the Salt Lake City airport and Atlanta Falcons stadium.
“I have skill, I have time. I don’t do it the usual way, I do it my way,” Campbell said. Building the stand was a work of love and care for Campbell. His family and friends helped by providing a workspace and tools. Campbell’s brother-in-law allowed him use of his wood shop and a close family friend offered his steel shop to cut letters for the stand.
U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Joel Brown, also with the 652nd and a native of Casper, Wyoming, was Campbell’s right-hand man on the project. “After building it for three weeks, filling, sanding, priming, painting, putting trim on, I needed Brown’s help with angles of the flags,” explains Campbell.
Brown grew up building things in his grandfather’s shop. His grandfather had worked as an oil driller and made the majority of the tools in the shop by hand.
“Growing up I was always building something,” Brown said.
Campbell credits Brown with being an expert on distances, angles, and flag regulations. When asked to help, he jumped at the opportunity. “I helped with angles and planning for the flags. It’s important to get the lengths on the poles correctly,” Brown said, “making sure that flag is draped just right.”
Campbell and Brown used the chop saw, skill saw, whole saw, routers, a digital plasma cutter for letters and other tools to construct the stand.
“We put in an extra effort in what we do, regardless if it’s a flag stand or improving bases around Poland,” Campbell explained. “The 652nd will always put more into in than expected.”
Campbell and Brown are proud of the finished flag stand. “We have that in the background to display who we are,” Brown said, proudly. “We are the face of America for Poland right now and we are the 652 RSG.”