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Trailblazing aboard a carrier

When the USS Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier, sailed out of Norfolk, Va. last week for a six-month tour of waters in the Middle East, it became the first U.S. warship to carry women on an extended mission.

And among the nearly 400 women in the 5,500-member crew is Dunedin's Lt. Jane Campbell. This photo of her with two fellow officers appeared on Page 3A of the Times last Friday.

Jane, 29, is an old hand at this trailblazing, according to her parents, Audrey and George Campbell of Dunedin. They said she was among the first women to serve on the USS Sylvania, a supply ship, and saw duty supplying carriers during Operation Desert Storm and operations aiding Hurricane Andrew survivors in Dade County. She also was among the first women assigned to the USS LaSalle, a weapons ship.

But now the 1983 Dunedin High School graduate has gone big-time. Really big. Just a week after recently reporting for duty as the Eisenhower's assistant public affairs officer, her boss told her that President Clinton was coming for a visit and she was in charge of coordinating details with the White House.

"We were flabbergasted," Jane's mother said, when they learned what she was up to. But the presidential visit earlier this month went smoothly, and Jane got to meet Clinton personally. Mrs. Campbell said Jane's biggest thrill came when members of the press corps told her this was the best shipboard reception the president had ever received.

After graduating from Dunedin High, Jane attended Davidson College in North Carolina. She stayed on campus two years after graduation working in the admissions and ROTC offices.

But then about four years ago she decided to follow the military career paths of her father, who is retired from the Army Medical Service Corps, and her older sister, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Lee Little, who has served as a navigator on planes and is now an operations officer and instructor at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola.

Lee's husband is a former aircraft carrier pilot now working as an FBI agent.

A third Campbell daughter, Ann Cripps, is a radiology technician in Germany, where her husband, an Army major and former test pilot, is working on aeronautical technology research.

Ann has another job, her mother said. "She's raising our grandchildren" _ a boy, 11, and a girl, 6.

The whole Campbell clan got together in August for a reunion at Lee's home in Pensacola. What stories they must have to share!