Getting to know your Group CC: Sometimes you just get lucky

  • Published
  • By Capt. Carla Gleason
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
That's what happened when Col. Doug Miller, 56th Operations Group commander, decided to join the military.

Miller, then just a high school student being forced by his dad to finance his first year of college on his own, applied to both the Air Force and Naval academies because they provide free education. And with acceptance letters to both in hand, the big deciding factor wasn't a desire to fly planes or even wear the Air Force blue -- instead, it was a fondness for skiing.

"I have to admit that I chose the Air Force over Annapolis because it was in the mountains, and I love to ski," he said. "Truly it wasn't until I was actually a student in the academy that it dawned on me they had planes. I'd love to say becoming a pilot was a childhood dream but it wasn't. I'm just lucky it turned out the way it did."

Miller, like many college students in their early years, may not have had his career all mapped out from the start, but the Air Force has a way of drawing certain people in, and Miller was hooked early on.

"At the time I guess you could say I was living in the moment, but once I was exposed to flying, it became my passion and I couldn't see myself doing anything else," Miller said. And the rest, as they say, is history. Miller has been flying planes ever since.

For aviation enthusiasts like Miller, Luke is the place to be. The 56th is the largest fighter wing in the Air Force; the 56th OG produces the most fighter sorties every year and trains more than half of the fighter pilots in the Air Force across all air frames and all of the F-16 intelligence specialists.

"It's a thrill watching the machine known as the 56th Operations Group conduct its mission on a daily basis," Miller said. "The competence and professionalism of the OG warriors is a thing of beauty."

This glittering assessment isn't coming from an enthusiastic newcomer's view of things either. In fact, this is the colonel's third assignment at Luke, once as a trainee, once as a squadron commander and now as a group commander.

"Each time I've been here it has been with a different perspective," he said. Initially, becoming part of the Air Education Training Command as a squadron commander was met with some trepidation; AETC was an unknown entity to Miller who had been at the tip of the spear as a combat warrior.

"After getting here I was so impressed with the quality and caliber of training we provide the F-16 pilots, extremely impressed actually, that I became more and more excited about the prospects ahead," Miller said. "This time around, I have not only the authority, but the responsibility to guide my squadron commanders and give them the leeway they need to be effective leaders."

Using the lessons he learned from his first operational squadron commander and mentor, who later became his father-in-law, Miller takes his leadership role to heart.

"The most rewarding part of this job is being able to take care of the many superstars that exist here at the 56th," he said, noting that the group's squadron commanders are the best he's ever worked with. "But on the other side, taking care of my Airmen is also the most challenging aspect of the job. There are so many top performers and stratifications only go so far; I'd like to take care of them all, so our large pool of talent ends up being a double edged sword."

With the weight of the 56th operations on his shoulder, the OG commander is responsible for turning out the best fighter pilots in the world, contributing not only to Air Force operations globally, but in a big way to our nation's defense. That takes more than luck - it takes skill. Thankfully, according to Miller, skill is not lacking when it comes to this group.

"The extreme tactical expertise of everyone involved, from air traffic control and maintenance to the pilots, is amazing," he said. "I am extremely impressed and proud of the product, combat-ready pilots, we send out to the combat air forces every year."

It looks like that luck isn't about to run out any time soon.