Career Navy officer gives vets day talkCharles Altman couldn’t have planned a well-rounded career any better than the one he just spent 29 years developing ... and he did it all in the U.S. Navy.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
Charles Altman couldn’t have planned a well-rounded career any better than the one he just spent 29 years developing ... and he did it all in the U.S. Navy.
Commander Altman, who will give the annual Veterans Day address at the government center Thursday morning, has retired and moved to Hudson, an area where his wife Shellea is not without connections.
Altman’s Navy career included a variety of experiences. He earned his wings as a pilot, served on a carrier during Desert Storm, worked in diplomatic circles as Naval Attaché in Tel Aviv, Israel, during Operation Iraqi Freedom and served as executive officer of the Navy ROTC unit at the University of Minnesota.
His last duty station was as an associate dean at the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va.
“I joined the Navy because I wanted to fly,” he said during a recent conversation at a Hudson coffee shop. “I was turned off by the Air Force and, frankly, I liked the Navy uniform.”
The 52-year-old Cleveland, Ohio, native joined the Navy with a brand new Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from the University of Toledo and headed to Pensacola, Fla., for aviation officers candidate school in 1982.
He earned a set of wings and ultimately flew P-3 Orion sub chasers. His first duty station was a squadron home-ported in Hawaii that had been deployed to the Philippines where he joined the unit.
It was during a stint in Japan that he met his wife to be, the former Shellea Miller who has ties to North Hudson. Her grandparents are Fred and Margaret (Richie) Buttke.
Shellea was serving a tour of duty as a Navy dental officer when the two met. She put in 12 years before leaving active duty to take care of the couple’s three children. She holds equal rank to her husband as a commander in the Navy Reserve.
One of Altman’s war zone experiences was aboard the USS America during Desert Storm where he sent planes off the carrier deck and guided them back on during sorties into Iraq.
“I was on the ship for that one,” he said. “I never set foot on the ground during the first Gulf War.”
He had a different role when the second Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, came around as a Navy attaché to Israel.
“Our job was to keep Israel out of the war,” Altman said. When things got hot, American citizens were evacuated from the country.
Shellea and the family were living in Israel at the time and left with the other Americans. “‘I was pregnant with my third child then,” she said.
The bombs dropped regularly on Tel Aviv…“We lived in gas masks,” he said.
Even with the separation from family as well as other sacrifices, Altman said his Navy career was a great experience.
“I wouldn’t have gotten out if I hadn’t reached the statute requirement to retire,” he said.
“My family, everything I’ve accomplished since I was 21 was in the Navy. I have two master’s degrees,” he said.
The pursuit of education continues in his retirement. Altman is currently attending the University of Minnesota and working toward a doctor of education degree. His goal is to become a college professor or dean.
The program will take three to four years to finish. His fascination with flying has apparently run its course. “I want to see if I can make it in education” he said.
Altman received a special honor at his retirement ceremonies in Virginia Aug. 20. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for meritorious conduct in performing outstanding service.
Shellea and Charles have three children in the Hudson School District; Charlie, 15, at Hudson High School, Katie, 12 at Hudson Middle School and R.J, 7, at Prairie Elementary.