Ryan Campbell has been driven by the “American Dream” all of his life. In his mid-teens, he was willing to work wherever and whenever to get the proverbial house and yard that signified a stable, prosperous life with all the perks. After working in a tire store for eight years, he realized his future and happiness was not in serving customers every day in a retail environment.
His desire for the finer things in life was reignited by working for a man in the telecom field who had a nice-sized boat. “I saw that as a challenge,” Campbell said. At first, Campbell worked servicing equipment in the shelters at tower sites, seeing it more as an IT tech type of job. It wasn’t until a year later that the possibility of working on the tower itself became a possibility. After a brief training, he made his first climb. “I knew it was for me,” he said.
Since 2012, Campbell has been a full-time, self-described “Tower Dog,” working as a foreman for King Communications based in Phoenix, AZ. He handles a variety of tower jobs, from stacking to civil construction to new builds.
He said one of the scarier moments on the job wasn’t related to the prospect of falling but of getting shot. “My partner and I were working out of a basket truck in downtown Los Angeles,” Campbell said. “We heard some gunshots below us and ducked down. We were worried they would shoot up at any witnesses.”
His passion and pride for his work has bubbled over to establishing “americantowerclimbers” as a brand through social media outlets. Campbell hopes, through online media, to “give back” to what he considers a brotherhood (while acknowledging his “sisters” in the business as well). From his TikTok page to his Instagram site, he tries to capture the energy and excitement of tower work.
“I want to tell the story of what we do,” he said. Campbell said he is open to the idea of a union, but is trying to get a feel for where employers are at on the subject. He acknowledges some companies, singling out Ericsson as an example, take good care of their tech workers, offering free health, sick pay and other benefits. Although he hopes his exposure can recruit others to the industry, he is realistic about its requirements. “It’s a hard job and stressful,” he said. “You’ve got to be tough mentally and emotionally.”
By Jim Fryer, Inside Towers Managing Editor