Meet the Almands|
Posted 7/18/2012 Updated 7/18/2012
Commentary by Karen Petitt
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
7/18/2012 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- It's been just two months since Col. David Almand took command of the 375th Air Mobility Wing and since then, he and his wife, Cathy, have spent their time setting up their home and getting to know the mission and people who make this wing--and base--in his words, "a great place to live and work."
"We're both happy to be here ... at the heart and soul of Air Mobility Command," said the colonel. "We consider ourselves to be a mobility family, so it only seems appropriate that we're able to serve here at the headquarters base ... in a way that supports the awesome missions of airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation. And, we also enjoy living in the Midwest, so we're looking forward to traveling and experiencing all this area has to offer."
The Almands say they consider themselves a mobility family since their time has primarily been spent within Air Mobility Command (previously Military Airlift Command), but more so because they embrace the military lifestyle of "mobility" which has taken them to South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, New Jersey, Hawaii, Alaska, California, Florida and now Illinois.
"Wherever we've gone, we've made incredible friends, enjoyed the great outdoors ... it's been an amazing journey so far," said the colonel.
For Cathy, her journey began in the Washington, D.C., area where she grew up--both she and the colonel are children of Korean War veterans--yet she did not become interested in serving in the military until her high school counselor suggested she attend one of the military academies. After researching her options, she applied and was accepted to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she met her husband while working on a senior project together.
Colonel Almand's journey to the Academy came at the encouragement of his mother "who thought it would be a great way to gain an education." Both his parents worked at a local phone company in Midland Texas and climbed their way up the company ladder to achieve success, but they wanted him to attend college and have a better start in life.
As the youngest of four children--and the only boy--his parents definitely had high hopes for him, and he did not disappoint. His successful college career included playing football and being part of the national champion rugby team in 1989, as well as meeting his future wife.
"I joined the Air Force because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself and for the opportunities it afforded. Also, the structure at the Academy was good for me. Cathy and I got to know each other during our senior project, and we worked really well together, but our fate was determined by our graduation standings. We were only one person apart in our standings, so we're in line and we picked the same Undergraduate Pilot Training class, so that kind of sealed the deal for us."
Despite the grueling 12-hour training days and high stress atmosphere of pilot training at Del Rio, Texas, they eventually began dating. As graduation approached, Cathy chose an assignment to Dover AFB, Del., where she served as a Services officer, while the colonel's assignment took him to Charleston AFB, S.C., to fly C-141s.
"She had an opportunity to fly an airframe, but it wasn't in the same command, and though we weren't engaged at the time, we were pretty serious, so I feel that she sacrificed that flying opportunity so we could have the chance to continue to explore our relationship," said the colonel.
For Cathy, he had a certain charisma that she admired where he made everyone feel important, as well as his kindness, sense of humor and ability to get along with everyone. For him, their friendship formed the foundation for their eventual partnership, and her work ethic, commitment and drive, and ability to focus still continues to impress him, he said.
After one year, Cathy worked to be re-assigned to Charleston AFB and in November 1992 they got married. After two more years as a Services officer, she got her flying wish as a pilot in the C-141s. Colonel Almand switched airframes and became a C-17 pilot, allowing them to stay together there for six years total.
After 10 years, she transitioned from active duty to the Reserves, and also accepted an opportunity to fly for American Airlines. She is currently in a deferred recall status with the airlines until her children, Travis, 12, and Lance, 9, are grown, and she continues to serve as an Admissions Liaison Officer for the Air Force Academy. As a lieutenant colonel, she interviews and evaluates the candidates and submits a formal report that becomes part of the admissions package. This allows her to remain flexible to meet the demands of military life and raising a young family.
"Her role has helped us to really get out in the communities wherever we've lived and meet some great people that maybe we wouldn't have done otherwise or maybe not as fast had it not been for her connections," he said. "That's definitely been one of the most rewarding aspects of serving--the people we've gotten to know and the life-long relationships we've formed."
They said the flexibility in their lifestyles have allowed for some special memories and opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, especially with their children--from boating and exploring uninhabited islands, to visiting historical sites, to golfing and fishing, and more. They said they learned to "make their bucket list early."
"We decided we needed to explore throughout the assignment, not all at the end of a tour," said Cathy. "You may decide you like a particular place and want to go back, but you can't do that if you leave it all to the end. So even just simple things like go to the beach once a week, or take a weekend to do something instead of stay home, helped us to get out and fully experience our assignments."
Their career paths and choices have also ensured that at least one parent would be with the children and not called up to deploy at the same time.
Colonel Almand said, "We both feel very fortunate-especially post 9-11--that we've been able to work around each other's schedules to be there for our families. We are very sensitive to those dual-military families where both parents have obligations to serve, and we are committed to supporting those families before, during and after their deployments. It's very tough to do that, and it can't be done without the support of family and friends--as well as a larger Air Force family."
For now, they're settled in and are focusing on their goals for their time here. Cathy said education is an important focus area for her that was passed down from her parents--her father is a retired federal judge and her mother is an educator who started her own Montessori school.
"I'd like to continue with the great foundation that has already be laid here, and am excited to work with the new superintendent and principal of the schools here where a majority of military children attend," she said. "Both of our parents instilled the importance of education with us and that has been a common theme and important aspect for us, so we hope to continue to expand the awareness and programs available here."
She said she also wants to continue to work with young spouses as they adjust to military life, and one way to do that is to support the key spouse programs.
"I see my role as being a voice for those who don't have a voice. And, no matter where you are, you want to have a friend, and you need to learn how things work, so it's important to know how to figure those things out, so I hope to be of assistance in that area."
Colonel Almand said he's been preparing his entire career for this role [as commander], and has been pleasantly surprised by how many friends he is surrounded by, which enriches his experience. He said he's surrounded by great people and is enjoying his time thus far as he works with his leadership team to finalize the way ahead for the wing as it approaches a season of inspections.
Meanwhile, they balance their daily lives by enjoying dinnertime together and one more vacation before school starts, and say they look forward to their time at Scott AFB.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we're both excited for this opportunity to serve, and appreciate everyone's welcoming support," he said.