Many staff members leave U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) with a memento to commemorate the time they’ve spent here. For some, it’s a personalized coin or beer stein. For others, it’s a “now leaving Stuttgart” road sign replica decorated with well wishes from their colleagues. But one USEUCOM staff member recently departed the command with a particularly significant keepsake.
In 2018, U.S. Navy Commander John Anthony “Tony” Campigotto stepped into the role of the USEUCOM Policy and Engagement Branch Chief for the Missile Defense and Space Division. Coming from 16 years in naval aviation, he walked into his new assignment uncertain of what it would require from him. He and his civilian colleague, Manfred “Fred” Fischlein, set about establishing a new foundation for the two-person team.
The branch office was situated across from a common workspace in one of USEUCOM’s buildings, so the pair used the proximity to their advantage. “Our door was always open. People walked by, and we just kind of waved them in and started talking to them about their portfolios,” Campigotto said. “Fred and I knew that we had to go out and talk to others, figure out how this place worked, and build relationships.”
One of Campigotto’s first major tasks was running a missile defense working group in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. His deep dive into the project was quickly recognized.
“What caught my attention in one of the regional meetings some three years ago was that Commander Campigotto was willing to get himself involved to understand the problematics of the regional Air Defence in the Baltic region,” said Bartas Trakymas, Air Defence adviser for the Ministry of National Defence of Lithuania. “He later proved to be the person with the initiative and the ability to listen, communicate and coordinate the efforts of the U.S. team and the Allies of the region. He was willing to look for solutions which, most of the time, were not the easiest ones.”
Campigotto’s efforts to establish professional connections and his determination to get the job done were ultimately recognized in an unforgettable way.
With his USEUCOM tour of duty winding down, Campigotto experienced a full-circle moment with one final trip to the city where it began. Campigotto felt that he needed to return to Vilnius one last time to ensure the stability of the Lithuanian-U.S. partnership. It was a priority of his to make sure the relationship was cemented.
Campigotto’s final visit to Vilnius also provided his Lithuanian counterparts the opportunity to show their appreciation to the commander who had become a trusted partner over the years.
On June 14, 2021, Lithuanian Air Force Commander Colonel Dainius Guzas presented Campigotto with the Lithuanian Armed Forces Medal of Distinction awarded by Lithuania’s Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupšys. The award citation lauded Campigotto’s “immense contribution and improvement of the architecture of the Integrated Air and Missile Defence in the Baltic States, coordination of the United States and Allied defence plans and strengthening of Air Defence in the Baltic region.”
Campigotto was humbled by the Lithuanian recognition and grateful for all of his experiences during his USEUCOM assignment. “The engagements were challenging, the results were immediate, and they were always fun. Lithuania and the Baltic States are gracious hosts,” the commander said. “It’s the correct balance that bonds a team and keeps them connected on a project,” he added.
Campigotto is currently transitioning into a new role at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in northern Virginia. Like his entry into USEUCOM, he looks forward to delving into his new assignment and the opportunity to foster the same team atmosphere that delivered results across the European theater.
U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for U.S. military operations across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilian personnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is one of two U.S. forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, visit https://www.eucom.mil.