REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. –
Growing up on a small farm in Kansas, Col. David Almquist, dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. After all, he was surrounded by all sorts of animals and was keenly aware of the upkeep required to care for them.
However, life progressed, and he grew older. He decided to follow a family tradition of service to his country. His service would take him all over the world in the cockpit of the admittedly awesome AH-64 Apache helicopter.
Almquist is retiring after 29 years in the Army. Almquist has served just about everywhere, from the small farm in Kansas to the rugged battlefields of Afghanistan, with his final assignment being the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.
Service to the nation came naturally to Almquist, given his family’s strong military ties.
“There’s a long-standing record of service in my family,” Almquist said. “My great-grandmother served in the Army, and I had great uncles in the Navy and an uncle that was in the Air Force. My father initially worked in the defense industry as an electrical engineer. He helped design the guidance systems for the Poseidon and Trident Missiles.” His father also worked for McDonnell Douglas on the F4 Phantom Program.
Almquist followed in his older brother’s footsteps by attending ROTC at Kansas State University. They both chose the aviation career field, where his brother flew the UH-60 Black Hawk; Almquist, the Apache.
“We’ve had some interesting dinner conversations,” Almquist said with a laugh. “I teased him quite a bit.”
Almquist’s first assignment was in Germany. While there, he deployed to Bosnia as part of Operation Joint Guard, a NATO-led multinational peacekeeping mission.
He then served at Fort Hood, Texas, first as a training team lead and then as an aviation attack battalion line company commander.
Later in his career, Almquist served as an instructor at the Aviation Captain’s Career Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama, before earning a Master’s degree at Columbia University.
Almquist would then begin a run serving as the Operations Officer for several commands at a variety of duty stations. He started as an Aviation Task Force Operations Officer at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Upon return, he then served as a Brigade Operations Officer and deployed back to Afghanistan. He was then selected to join the Army Special Operations Aviation Command, first as the Operations Officer before transitioning to Strategic Initiatives.
Almquist then assumed command of the 412th Aviation Support Battalion in Katterbach, Germany, the site of his first duty station.
From there, Almquist was assigned as deputy director for Aviation, G-3/5/7 at U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Almquist made his final career move to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, to serve first as the director, (AMCOM G-5), for strategic initiatives, before transitioning to become the director, (AMCOM G-3/5) for operations, plans and strategy. From there, he assumed the position of the AMCOM Chief of Staff.
That’s 29 years of ups, downs, and unknowns. Almquist said he took the same approach when going into each assignment.
“Some of my jobs I knew exactly what it was going to be and some of my jobs I didn’t know what it was going to be,” Almquist said. “But I always go in optimistic.”
Of his many different assignments in the Army, Almquist said it’s difficult to pick his favorite.
“There are unique aspects of every assignment that make it fantastic,” Almquist said. “That’s how I look at my entire career.”
Almquist said working in staff positions greatly limited his opportunities to fly, something he understands and begrudgingly accepted.
“It’s a known path. When you’re young, you fly the most. When you get older, you fly less,” he said. “I do miss it.”
Closing out his career at AMCOM has certainly been interesting for a pilot who spent more than 2,500 hours in the air.
“AMCOM totally opened my eyes to another level of understanding of the behind-the-scenes of the Army’s aviation maintenance and sustainment,” Almquist said.
“I knew the field side of Army Aviation very well. But I really didn’t understand the complicated nature and the integration that AMCOM really focuses on,” he said. “I’m more knowledgeable now and I’m much better for being here. I hope the organization is better for me being here, too.”
As for the most rewarding part of his time at AMCOM, Almquist said learning from others and absorbing as much as he can from those in the organization is satisfying.
“There’s some amazing people that can do some amazing stuff here,” he said.
With his time in uniform coming to an end, Almquist’s plans are wide open.
“I plan to focus more on my family in my post-Army life,” he said. Almquist has two college-age children in the area. “I want to be close and available to them.”
Almquist has given thought to eventually becoming a professor, which would satisfy another family tradition.
“We’ve had a lot of educators in my family,” he said. “My grandfather was a professor at Kansas State University and my mother was a teacher. I was an instructor at the Aviation Captain’s Career Course and I really enjoyed that,” he said.
Since retirement can’t be all about work, Almquist said he’ll get back to one of his favorite hobbies.
“I’m going to be fishing more,” he said with a grin. “I love to fish. I’ve got a trip already planned.”
Looking back fondly on a long and rewarding career, Almquist reminisced about those that helped him along the way.
“When I was younger, one of my mentors gave me a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson,” he said. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” he quoted. “The Army provides so many paths for you. And it’s your job to blaze your own trail,” he said. “That’s made all the difference for me.”