Face of Defense: Deployed Guardsman Helps Fellow Airmen
By Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol
380th Air Expeditionary Wing
SOUTHWEST ASIA, April 22, 2010 Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Mark Miller, an Air National Guardsman who’s deployed here as the first sergeant for the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, takes the core value of "service before self" very seriously.
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Mark Miller, first sergeant for the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, participates in a retreat ceremony in Southwest Asia, April 2, 2010. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I have a great pride in our country," said Miller, who is from the Iowa Air National Guard's 133rd Test Squadron at Fort Dodge, Iowa -- a geographically separated unit of the 185th Air Refueling Wing at Sioux City, Iowa.
Miller, who has been a member of the Iowa Department of Public Safety since July 1989, serves as an assistant district commander for the state police at District 7 in north-central Iowa. Now that he is deployed, the 23-year military veteran said he is appreciative of the working relationship he has with his state employers.
"My department has supported me 100 percent in all of my endeavors with the Air National Guard," Miller said. "My duties as a sergeant in the state patrol are very similar to the duties of a first sergeant. My main purpose in both jobs is to ensure my commander has a mission-ready force."
Miller said first sergeants manage people and provide the behind-the-scenes support that benefits many airmen.
"We deal with health and morale issues," he said. "We take care of things like setting up emergency leave, overseeing physical fitness programs, enforcing community standards, organizing commander's calls and coordinating awards and promotion ceremonies. We are available to listen to people and assist them in both work and personal problems. We also give the commanders advice on discipline and morale."
He said first sergeants also can support airmen on a personal level.
"First sergeants are very important to our Air Force in so many ways," Miller said. "People need to know they have someone to go to if they are having problems within their chain of command, fellow workers or personal issues. We are also a neutral voice for the commanders to listen to and see things from a different perspective. We also tend to get this done in the background."
Miller said duty as a first sergeant has featured some of his most-rewarding experiences during his military career.
"I am at that point in my career where it is about the airmen," he said. "Without the airmen, we would not succeed in our mission today and we would not have a future. I deployed to be available for the … young man or woman who is away from home for perhaps the first time.”
Deployed servicemembers may ask for advice or could just need someone to listen to them, Miller said. Many times, he added, they may just require a different perspective on things to make whatever problem they have a little easier to deal with.
"I just enjoy working with people," Miller said. "I spent 14 years in munitions, three in security forces and my last six as a first sergeant. This has, by far, been the most rewarding six years of my career."
Miller said he will never forget the support he has received from his family during his deployment. He also is comforted with the thought that he has helped people during his time as a first sergeant.
"When an Air National Guard shirt volunteers to deploy, it comes out as a request for volunteers," said Miller, who currently resides in Humboldt, Iowa, and whose hometown is Sioux City, Iowa. "When I told my wife I wanted to volunteer for this deployment, she asked me why. I told her that I was close to retirement, I would be taking off my first sergeant diamond in June, and I had one last chance to make a difference in an airman's life.
“Maybe, I thought, I could help someone who was having a hard time coping in a deployed environment,” he added. “[My family has] supported me ever since, and I'm glad I was able to do this one more time."