Bre Cameron, a Findlay Ohio native, is a proud Navy veteran. Born to parents Doug and Kim, Bre was the older sister to Tyler and Austin.
Bre attended Findlay High School where she excelled in art for which she gives thanks to teachers Nancy Frankenfield and Maria Conrad. Bre enjoyed making sculpture figurines and painting portraits using acrylic and oils. It was her plan to head south to Georgia to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Plans deviated when her best friend Jennifer Dubbert convinced Bre, then a senior, to go with her to talk to a Navy recruiter so Jennifer wouldn’t be nervous. The recruiter explained to Bre that she could accomplish two major goals in her life, leave Findlay and explore, and pay for college with the GI Bill, if she would be willing to enlist in the Navy.
Bre’s father was a professional photographer and Bre had learned to love photography working with him so when she heard she could train as a military photographer in the Navy, the deal was closed. She would wait almost nine months on delay enlistment for a class slot to open. In January of 2001, just as winter settled in, Bre arrived at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes in Illinois.
As with many veterans, her first impression from being hustled off the bus late at night, placed in formation with three screaming training instructors greeting the new recruits, left Bre wondering, “What have I done?” The recruits were kept up all night to “onboard” in, allowed to make a five second call home, and assigned to barracks. There were some serious privacy and cultural hurdles for Bre to overcome, never having had a sister or sharing a room, she was now sleeping and showering with 100 other women. “I learned to shower quickly and keep my eyes up!” Bre did gain a close friend from basic, Courtney Robinson, her bunkmate and with whom Bre learned to use team work to succeed in basic training.
“Basic was initially terrifying and I worried I couldn’t keep up physically but I soon found I could do more than I had thought.” Bre set a personal goal to be able to do 100 pushups by the end of the ten weeks training. In a final competition with all the recruits, male and female, in her coed training division, Bre beat all the others, outlasting one final male 102 to 101.
Bre recalls, “by the last two weeks I was loving the camaraderie of working with my fellow sailors. We were all treated as equals, men and women. There was no color or gender, everyone was “blue.” I was so happy and so alive!” In March of 2000 Bre and her division graduated, with Bre’s parents, grandmother and friends in attendance.
Next stop was the four month long Consolidated Defense Information A-School located at Ft. Mead, Maryland, which brought trainees from every military branch together. The school included training shooting with film, learning how to develop film, and digital photography. Bre excelled here as well finishing in the top three of class.
The class was almost completed when the events of September 11th, 2001 changed everything. There was an immediate closure of the base, everyone locked down, confined to their rooms, while many of the instructors being first responders/EMT’s responding to help at the badly damaged Pentagon.
“The fun, light mood of the class changed instantly. Things got real, very tense. No longer fun, it was serious. We were now at war!”
Bre would eventually receive orders to the main Navy base in San Diego, 32nd Street where she was assigned to the destroyer DDG-69 USS Milius. For the next six months she served as a Boatswains Mate, in the “real” Navy. Next stop for Bre was a shore duty assignment at the Naval Amphibious Training Base where she worked in the Personnel Support office for a year.
Bre married Jared Smith a sailor she had met onboard the Milius. In October of 2002 they welcomed the birth of their daughter Jasmyne. The Navy had a regulation that married couples would always have one deployed and one on shore duty. Jared would leave for deployment immediately after Jasmyne’s birth, leaving Bre to learn how to be a new mother by herself. Bre credits her nanny Rosie as “the one who taught me how to be a brand new mom since I was so far away from my mom.”
In the Summer of 2003 Bre finally received orders to work in her field of training as a Photographers Mate 3rd Class. She was sent to Fleet Imaging Command where for the next 18 months she was charged with taking photos of ceremonies, changes of command, retirement and reenlistment events to name a few. She also assisted NCIS by photographing crime scenes. Bre developed her own film into prints and portraits. One memorable high point was meeting Luke Perry when she was taking pictures at his brother’s retirement ceremony.
When the brand-new carrier CVN76 USS Ronald Reagan was commissioned Bre’s Senior Chief at Fleet Imaging was picked to be the L. CPO on board. Impressed with her work ethic, he requested Bre, now a Petty Officer herself to join the crew as the ship’s Combat Camera photographer. She was transferred onboard in April 2004.
“That was my best command ever! I have friends from that duty all over the world.”
Bre was in charge of the onboard Portrait Studios where she took portraits of all the carrier’s command staff. She also moved about the ship taking candid pictures of daily life for sailors to be used by the Department of Defense for recruitment and printed in newspapers and magazines.
Bre was never officially “deployed” but the Reagan went on numerous shakedown runs lasting 2-3 weeks at a time to prepare for eventual deployment.
In November of 2005, Bre decided to step away from the Navy choosing to be a full-time mom instead. Using accrued leave allowed her last day in the Navy to be December 31st, 2005, when she mustered out as a Photography Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class.
Now a single mom, Bre and Jasmyne stayed in the San Diego area while Bre used her GI Bill to attend San Diego City College. (Bre had been taking 1-2 classes a semester since 2002, working on her General Education classes.) In 2008 the two would move to Ohio to be closer to family. Bre continued her education at Bowling Green State University completing her Bachelor of Art degree in Liberal Arts in 2009.
Bre had cashed out her retirement from the Navy which she used to purchase a top of the line Nikon D300 camera. She supported herself and Jasmyne as a free-lance photographer doing weddings and taking portraits. She opened her own studio under the name Bre Cameron Photography. She took pictures of newborns, children, pregnancies and engagements.
The photography business did not provide sufficient income so Bre explored other employment opportunities. She worked as waitress/bartender for a year. She had learned basic graphic design and photoshop in the Navy, so she worked for a year or so designing websites.
Bre found her career and passion when she accepted a position with ADP as Veteran Employment Program manager overseeing the recruitment of veterans. With her military service, education and life experience Bre was the perfect person to speak with veterans about overcoming obstacles, transitioning back to civilian life, helping veterans identify jobs where they could use their military training/skills.
Bre also works with human resource departments, hiring managers and veteran’s organizations educating them about the unique qualifications and traits of veterans. Bre works with the Veteran Employment Network and its veteran mentoring program. While her position allows her to work remotely from home in Findlay, she is able to travel coast to coast during the year working to help veterans find suitable employment.
Bre and Jasmyne share their home with Buster the dog. The two enjoy family trips to NYC, Savannah and Hocking Hills to name a few they have taken.
Thank you Bre for your service in the Navy and your continued dedicated efforts to assist veterans to come back home.