Career reflections: Academy’s vice-commander selected for brig. gen.
by Amber Baillie
Academy Public Affairs staff writer
1/17/2014 – U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Academy’s vice commander may have filled more than his fair share of leadership positions during his lengthy career — maintenance flight commander, wing commander, Joint Staff exercise planner, among many others — but he’s about to embark on an entirely new level of responsibility.
Col. Evan Miller has been selected for promotion to brigadier general.
A 1988 graduate, Miller has spent almost 26 years of commissioned service in the Air Force in logistics and maintenance, believing in the Air Force mission, understanding every Airman has a role and building strong teams to achieve success. A dedicated father of three, avid cyclist and multisport athlete, Miller said he’s looking forward to new opportunities as a general officer and is happy to be back at the Academy.
“It’s really a great place,” he said. “There are a lot of challenges, but it’s a fantastic assignment. There’s an energy about the cadets that makes it fun to come to work every day.”
Miller said he was born at the Academy; his father was active duty Air Force and taught at the Academy.
“I attended college here because I knew I loved airplanes and wanted to be around them,” he said. “The Academy taught me a lot about resiliency. I broke both of my wrists playing basketball during my sophomore year, which is the toughest academic year.”
One of the best things in Miller’s life was meeting his wife, he said.
“We met each other when we were 15, the colonel said. “She went to college at Bowling Green State University, and I stayed here. We stayed together and got married 11 days after graduation. Breaking both of my wrists, being away from her and struggling with academics made the Academy a challenging place, but I got through it.”
Miller said he feels lucky with every promotion and that the Air Force continues to ask him to serve.
“I’ve never walked anywhere with the expectation or glint in my eye that I would become a general officer,” he said. “We’ll see what the Air Force has next for me — I’m looking forward to serving more.”
Miller said every year he looks back more fondly on what the Academy taught him.
“I faced a lot of adversity, and I think it gave me determination and grit as well as an ability to stay calm and persevere through a trying time,” he said. “Fortunately, whether it’s been luck or happenstance, I’ve made some decent decisions and have had a fantastic career to this point.”
Miller’s advice to cadets: listen, watch, and be humble, confident and ready to be a good teammate.
“Step up when the Air Force needs you to, and when your teammates need you,” he said. “We serve the nation and Air Force. Keep that in mind and keep those priorities straight. I think the Academy gives cadets a fantastic foundation and prepares them to be good leaders. We can’t turn someone into a good leader, but we work very hard to prepare and give them the kind of experiences, skills, abilities and knowledge to be ready to lead.”
Miller said one of his top priorities is to make sure Academy leaders continue to work hard to preserve the Academy essence and adequately resource it.
“One of my goals is to contribute to the future of the Academy so years from now, cadets will be more prepared and better officers than my contemporaries and other graduates, because we built a strong foundation. I want to see this institution embrace and think through the essence of the Air Force Academy.”
Miller earned a basic sciences degree here that has served him exceptionally well. He said he wasn’t certain what he wanted to study so he didn’t graduate with a disciplinary major.
“I hope we teach our cadets that their journey doesn’t end when they finish here; it’s renewed at each milestone. The core curriculum here academically prepared me for a successful career in logistics. Being an aircraft maintenance officer was a great fit for me.
Miller also said one of his favorite traditions here is the cadets’ commitment dinner celebrating the first day of their junior year and commitment to the Air Force.
“The commitment dinner galvanizes cadets’ commitment to the Air Force,” Miller said. “We didn’t have the dinner when I was here. I love the way the commandant talks about commitment and how that’s characterized at the dinner.”
Miller said he thinks the Academy does well at speaking to cadets on what the Air Force will be like and what the Air Force expects of them, such as deployments.
“Until you deploy you really don’t know what it will be like,” Miller said. At the Academy we focus on getting cadets prepared to deal with an uncertain future but to be confident enough and smart enough in their own skills and abilities to be able to lead their way through any challenge.”
Wherever you are and whatever you do, building a strong team is a prerequisite to being successful, Miller said.
“It comes down to being an honest teammate, understanding everyone’s roles and responsibilities, respecting what others do and respecting how they operate,” he said. “I’ve never run into a situation where I found someone who didn’t have a talent. Everyone has a role, and it’s important to figure out how to fit the team together so the mission is accomplished in the best way possible.”
Miller said he’s thankful to be working with fantastic people here and enjoys the variety of things he’s able to take part in as vice superintendent.
“When I first arrived, I was able to go to Jacks Valley and partially relive, and watch, the new class of cadets go through a tough time and see how they handled it. I was able to see how the upperclassmen led them through it. It’s been a fantastic opportunity observing the Cadet Wing, watching teams compete, and it’s been exciting getting a sense of how the Airmanship Programs work to develop leaders. I’m thrilled to be here and was excited to see my name on the promotion list because of the opportunities ahead.”