A rewarding adventure

Local man helps provide support in special worldwide operations

Photos courtesy of Joe Bishop/U.S. Navy Petty Officer Aaron Almond has been aboard the USS Boxer since May as a part of the Amphibious Squadron ONE, which can perform its mission on aircraft, surface ships, submarines, ashore and with special warfare combat crews.

Local man helps provide support in special worldwide operations

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Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 1st Class Aaron Almond poses for a photo on the signal bridge of the USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

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Almond stands watch in the Joint Operations Center aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group.

“It wasn’t a matter of if I would serve, just when I would,” he said.

His older sister, Amy Schmid, who enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from Camas High School in 2000, also inspired him to join the military.

“I saw how well she was doing and it made sense to me,” he said. “But it was after Sept.11 that it really hit me.”

After graduating from CHS in 2004, he left for basic training and has spent the last 10 years in the Navy.

While he was a Papermaker, Almond participated in track and football. He followed the football team this year via the Internet, on their road to state.

“It was a heartbreaking loss,” he said of the state championship game. “I didn’t actually get to watch the game, but I followed it online and talked about it with friends. We were all heartbroken.”

Almond is currently in the Arabian Gulf, which is another world to a kid from Camas.

“This has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined,” he said. “Not only have I seen so many different places, but I’ve seen so many different bodies of water, from the Western Pacific to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s just amazing.”

Almond has been on board the Boxer since May. His wife and 1-year-old son are at home in San Diego, but he receives online photos and videos regularly.

When he returns home, Almond will begin another job as a Navy counselor, which will allow him to spend more time with his family. In this position, he will offer career guidance to those currently enlisted, as well as to those considering enlistment in the Navy.

“When I was job shadowing the recruiters, I asked how I could get that job,” Almond said. “They told me you don’t just ask for it. You have to apply. So I set a five year goal.”

By 2009, he was working as a recruiter out of the same office near the Vancouver Mall where he’d first enlisted. But in 2012, he was moved to San Diego, where he began work as a cryptologic technician. However, after three years working in the recruiting office, connecting with people is what he enjoys most.

“It’s always been something I’ve had a passion for,” Almond said. “I like sitting down with the guys and girls who are considering enlisting, because I can relate to them and remember where I was at that age. You act as a catalyst between them and the enlisted community. You are a first line leader for them.”

He said among the biggest challenges in his new job would likely be dealing with some people’s perceptions of what a career in the Navy involves.

“The guys and girls who want to enlist don’t have as many issues with the idea as their parents and friends often do,” Almond said. “You are dealing with a lot of different people’s perspectives, not just one. Hopefully, I can be the voice of reason.”

Although a career in the military has its share of challenges, Almond said it has also been very rewarding.

“I think the biggest opportunity I’ve had is to utilize the Navy college programs, which have provided 100 percent tuition assistance,” he said. “I haven’t had to dig into the G.I. Bill at all.”

Throughout all of his travels, Almond tries to come home whenever possible.

“I never knew how much I would miss Camas until I left,” he said. “I made some great friends at Lacamas Heights Elementary that I still talk to now.”

When asked if he had anything else he’d like to say, Almond paused for a minute and decided to send along a message to his mother, Jeannie.

“I take every opportunity to say ‘Hi Mom!’” he said.