From a young age, Cpl. Aspen Stombaugh always dreamt she would do something great in her future.
"I used to have this dream where I wanted to be President of the United States, and I figured if I wanted to be the Commander-in-Chief, I should have some experience," said Stombaugh. "I’ve always wanted to be a Marine. From the day that I saw the tattoo of the Eagle, Globe and Anchor on the most confident, incredible woman I’d ever seen to the day that I finally found out what it meant. I’ve always wanted to do this."
When Stombaugh was in elementary school at a holiday event, she saw a stranger with an EGA tattoo. The woman carried herself with such confidence and poise that it made an impression that later on would change Stombaugh’s life.
"I was in the 5th grade. I was at this Christmas bizarre fair thing at my school. I had $2 that I asked for from my mom, and I was planning on spending it to buy her a pair of earrings for Christmas. I am in the cafeteria, trying to decide which hand crafted earrings I wanted when the most graceful, most incredible ‘make a statement’ woman walked in," said Stombaugh. "Everybody knew, she never had any questions about her life or what she’s done. I saw a tattoo on her upper left shoulder of the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, and I didn’t know what it was for years. As I was going through high school, coming to realize that I didn’t want to go to college, I started checking out the military, and I saw that same symbol, which happened to be the Marine Corps’ (recruiting station). I said, ‘That’ll be it.’"
Stombaugh joined the Marine Corps in 2014 out of Boise, Idaho. She is now attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 on Marine Corps Air Station New River.
"(The Marine Corps) is nothing like you expected. I joined for a group of like minded individuals, dedicated toward making a difference. The idea that these people live by a code," said Stombaugh. "That was what I wanted. I came for the brotherhood."
When Stombaugh joined and experiences the Marine Corps she received more than just a brotherhood.
"I found something better. I don’t believe in fate but sometimes when I’m flying and the sun is setting and we’re coming to land on runway 23, I have this feeling wash over me," said Stombaugh. "It’s different than any of the wind blowing in through the crew door. It’s this feeling of ‘maybe I’m not exactly where I belong but I’m on the right path.’"
Stombaugh is a MV-22 Osprey crew chief. She is also the only female crew chief at the unit.
"It was awkward at first. A lot of people were a little bit scared. Everybody has these ideas. When you haven’t had and you haven’t experienced (having a female marine in the shop) they had a lot of preconceived notions of what kind of person I might be," said Stombaugh. "When I arrived they all accepted me and I never gave them a reason to think of me as anything different."
Being the only female Marine doesn’t stop her from continually striving to better herself and better those around her.
"She’s a good Marine. She bonds well with others. It’s a challenge being the only female Marine in the shop but at the same time we all recognize as not a ‘her’ but a U.S. Marine. The title comes first," said Sgt. Zackary Bowen, a flight line mechanic and collateral duty inspector with VMM-261. "She’s faced challenges that other Marines in the shop haven’t faced and she’s overcome them. I think that says a lot not only about the human she is but the Marine as well."