BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The opposing team dominates them time after time. Standing there watching their opponent continuously beat them in the pole-vault event is their only option, being that they haven’t the slightest idea of what they’re doing. The only knowledge of pole vaulting the team has is from the videos they watch because the school lacks a coach.
This is how Col. David N. Miller Jr., 460th Space Wing commander, spent his time on his high school’s track team, where he learned the importance of what it means to be part of a team.
Although they weren’t close to being the best, they ultimately learned one of their greatest life lessons through the struggle. They learned that it doesn’t require winning everything every time to become a successful team; it only required maximum effort.
Win or lose, their only intention was to show up to every track meet and perform better than they ever had before and to go home with a new personal best each time.
“Everyone enjoys the highs of winning,” said the commander. “But in my experience, it’s when you compete at a high level and you lose, but your team does better than they ever had in the past, that you really appreciate the value of being on that team.”
This mindset has followed Miller through his entire life. In fact, from the beginning of his military career, he made it a goal to bring the same attitude to all assignments.
“I remember thinking when I joined the Air Force ‘I may not be the best Airman out there, but I know this is a team that will always reward and take care of someone who does their best,’” said Miller. “I’ve found that to be true in every single assignment, and I’ve tried to instill that culture in every leadership position I’ve been in. I don’t expect everyone to be the best every day; that’s unachievable. However, I ask everyone to give their personal best every day.”
Now with 23 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Miller understands there comes a point in your career when it’s no longer about you, but about focusing on the Airmen and helping them improve both themselves and the mission.
The time has come for Miller to hang up his cleats and coach his team to success.
“I’m not so much a doer anymore,” said Miller. “When I was younger, I was a doer. Now, when you get to this point in your career, your focus should be on making sure your team has guidance, resources, support, motivation and discipline.”
After spending two decades in leadership positions as a commissioned officer, Miller has an understanding of the necessities it will take to guide Team Buckley toward a path of success.
However, it hasn’t only been his military experiences that have formed Miller into an exceptional leader.
During his childhood, Miller’s parents were divorced. Growing up in a single-parent household in Newburgh, New York, Miller and his siblings watched their mother work tirelessly to provide the best life possible for them. Due to this, they were exposed to many challenges and struggles from a young age.
Having his mother, a New York teacher, as a strong role model in his early life helped form his understanding of what it means to be a successful leader.
“I began to notice how strong of a leader my mom was and how fabulous the environment I grew up in really was,” said Miller. “It really shaped how I view things as a leader. What I mean by that is, as a leader, my sole responsibility is to try to give people the tools they need in order to succeed.”
With all his great accomplishments, Miller will be the first to admit that none of them could’ve been possible without having a strong team beside him.
“I’ve always had influential people who gave me the rope to run, but pushed me to be the best me,” said the New York native. “I highly encourage my supervisors to act the same way. Whether an Airman is in trouble or they’re performing exceptionally, we need to be there for our Airmen to support them always, but push them to succeed beyond even their own projections.”
As Miller continues to contribute nothing but his best to Team Buckley, he keeps in mind his only goal; to make Buckley Air Force Base a stronger team than it was upon his arrival.