SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Growing up in Syracuse, N.Y., Ronald Miller wasn’t the kind of kid who dreamed of joining the military. The idea wasn’t on his radar, despite growing up with family members who served. Today, he is Capt. Ronald Miller, Space Delta 9, 3rd Space Operations Squadron mission assurance flight commander.
“It wasn’t until America was in Iraq and Afghanistan that I thought that [military service] was going to be my future,” Miller said.
Originally, Miller planned on enlisting in the U.S. Army after high school, but his uncle, who currently serves in the Army National Guard as a Chief Warrant Officer logistics manager, convinced Miller to go to college and earn a degree. Miller finished his degree and in 2011 enlisted with the U.S. Air Force. Most recently, he’s transitioned into the U.S. Space Force.
“I got a business degree in 2009, and I wanted to serve in some federal capacity as my grandfather had done after he left the Army,” Miller said.
Not long after, he applied to Officer Training School, but he was not chosen due to the competitive selection process. Nonetheless, Miller still wanted to serve, so he enlisted as a cryptologic language analyst in 2011. He continued on this career path until he was a senior airman.
“Once I hit my time of eligibility and time on station, I applied for OTS,” he said.
This time he was accepted and would commission in 2015.
“Shortly after commissioning, it was clear to me that I worried about things a lot more than everyone else,” Miller said candidly.
Miller struggles with generalized anxiety disorder. While he has been dedicated to his work throughout his life, he said the anxiety has negatively affected him, some of his relationships, and has even caused panic attacks.
“I felt like a hypocrite being an officer that was supposed to care for and inspire Airmen and Guardians to perform self-care and be open to addressing their mental health, and not do so myself,” said Miller. “I scheduled an appointment with my primary care manager and he confirmed that I failed to properly manage the stress in my life, and assured me that talking to a mental health professional was the right thing to do.”
Miller said he considers talking to a therapist to be a major turning point in his life for the better, and for others that are struggling, he hopes they find the strength to reach out for professional help.
“I cope with regular sessions with my psychologist and focus on the principals of ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy,’ which teach you to not regret or fight invasive and persistent thoughts,” Miller said. “I am constantly mindful of aligning my actions with my personal values, which is the cornerstone to me not overthinking things.”
One of his greatest coping mechanisms for anxiety has been riding his motorcycle.
“When [I’m] riding, there is nothing to be concerned with other than the here and now, including the wind on your face and the sights and smells of the road,” he said. “I find myself to be most at peace with my lack of thoughts when I am on the road.”
Miller also said that being in the U.S. Air Force has helped him cope as well. The structure that military service has helps reduce the amount of decision-making he has to do day to day, giving him a clearer and easier path and helping him maintain focus. Overcoming these struggles has also helped mold him into a better and more understanding leader.
“I take leadership to heart and always want to improve my leadership abilities,” Miller said. “I learn from leaders I have met in the past. That way, I can learn how to best interact with people, inspire and influence.”
According to Master Sgt. Matthew Harrell, 3rd SOPS mission assurance flight chief, Miller is more than just a leader — he excels at his job in every aspect.
“Captain Miller is extremely driven and work-focused,” said Harrell. “His ability to lead, multitask and still manage to track all items is above most officers I have seen in my career. Captain Miller’s capacity to listen to guidance from those around him prior to making final decisions shows his ability to lead from the front.
Miller said he gained his values from his grandfather, who served in the U.S. Army as a radio intercept operator. He was raised by his grandfather, who also instilled discipline, order, and the value of family.
“Whether it is caring [for my family], providing in times of need or being there for them, my grandpa is truly the model example of all of that.” Miller said. “He inspires me to be the best version of himself.”
Miller’s family includes Mikaela, his wife of three years, and their cat. Miller said when he does have children, he’d encourage them to pursue military service, be it for education or for a career.
In his off time, Miller likes to go out to yard sales, auctions and thrift stores to collect treasures and antiques. His favorite find is a five-foot wide piece of art depicting aerial combat by the artist Roy Lichtenstein, who taught at the school in Miller’s hometown. He said the art is like bringing a piece of home with him wherever he moves.
“I’ve recently gotten into woodworking,” Miller said. “I want to get into more of restoring things, just finding it at a yard sale or thrift store, something someone threw away or wants to get rid of.”
Miller started collecting tools for woodworking when the COVID-19 pandemic started because most everything else he liked doing was shut down.
“I am drawn to making things because I am in complete control of the entire process,” Miller said. “I can take however long I want to make it just right, and whatever turns out is a direct result of the effort I put into it.”
His favorite thing to make while woodworking is wooden pens.
“I am most proud of a pen I made for my grandpa, because he really was impressed that I was able to make something like that,” Miller said.
Miller said hobbies get his mind off of things during his off time, but when he struggles at work he thinks of his older brother, Mike. A month before Miller enlisted, his brother passed away due to complications with HIV.
“Mike was a few years older than me and my sister, and since we were raised by our single mom, he was essentially the man of the house and kept us all in check,” Miller said.
Miller said his brother was a happy person, so almost every memory with him was a good one.
“The memory I think of most fondly was in his final hours when he held my hand and told me how proud he is of me and that he knew I would make something of myself,” Miller said.
When Miller reflects on his brother being so strong at his weakest, it gets him through his own tough times.
“In my head, I associated his passing with the beginning of my military service, since they roughly happened at the same time,” Miller said. “Whenever I’m struggling on the last lap of a [physical training] test, I look back and see him at his sickest and remember his strengths, and that helps me get through it.”
Miller hopes sharing his story will help others feel comfortable if they want to talk about the loss of someone close to them or something that’s impacted them on a personal level.
In the next 10 years Miller said he plans to keep on his journey as a space officer, though he was already making plans for retirement.
“In 20 years, I would hope to be working in a small woodworking shop that I would like to own,” Miller said. “In 30 years, I’ll be snuggled down with my family on the East Coast somewhere with a big barn and a much larger woodworking shop.”