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Two generations of air traffic controllers keep Nellis sky safe

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Retired Chief Master Sgt. Tom Miller looks over his daughter's shoulder, Staff Sgt. Deniece Miller, as they view a radar screen at the air traffic control facility here.  They are assigned to the 57th Operations Support Squadron here.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Demetrius Lester)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Retired Chief Master Sgt. Tom Miller looks over his daughter's shoulder, Staff Sgt. Deniece Miller, as they view a radar screen at the air traffic control facility here. They are assigned to the 57th Operations Support Squadron here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Demetrius Lester)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFPN) -- A sixth-grade student chose to write a school report about her dad, who is an air traffic controller in the Air Force. The student said she admired her father and his career, and watched him dress in uniform every day preparing to protect the sky for the military.

That was 14 years ago. The sixth-grader is now an Airman who became just like her father.

“My dad took me to his job when I was growing up,” said Staff Sgt. Deniece Miller, an air traffic control operator with the 57th Operations Support Squadron here. “He looked so nice in his blues; it made me want to join, and I always knew I wanted to become an air traffic controller.”

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Tom Miller said he never dreamed Deniece or older daughter, Michelle, would become Airmen when they grew up. But when it came time to attend college, he encouraged his daughters to get an education, and both girls joined the Air Force and went off to basic military training, one week apart.

“Kids have many aspirations, and at that time I didn’t think Deniece was serious when she said, ‘I want to do that too.’” Chief Miller said. “But when she decided to join the Air Force, I encouraged it.”

Although the girls went into separate career fields, one in air traffic control and the other in the medical field, Chief Miller said he knew the Air Force would be a great way for his children to receive their education.

“I never had a desire to be an air traffic controller,” said Staff Sgt. Michelle Stroud, a diagnostic imager with the 99th Medical Support Squadron here. “After I saw my sister join, I decided to follow her and join too. I think it’s nice to have the whole family in the Air Force.”

Even though Chief Miller’s Air Force career ended in January 2001, he still works at the air traffic control facility. Chief Miller and Sergeant Miller work in the same building but work different shifts; however, they occasionally pass each other during shift change.

Working alongside a family member in the same career field might have its ups and downs. When the Chief found out his daughter’s first orders were to Nellis, he said he knew there would be some tense moments.

“The day she received her orders, there were two things that worried me,” he said. “One, she was coming to Nellis to try to live up to the standards perceived when I was here, and two; because I was the … chief controller, people might think she had added benefits and received things because she was my daughter.”

The chief said he discouraged his daughters from telling anyone he was their father when they attended basic. But Chief Miller knew that whatever Sergeant Miller achieved in her career, she would do it on her own.

“Working with my father is an honor,” Sergeant Miller said. “At times when I came home from work, we would discuss our day’s activities, and if we ever disagreed, he would set me straight.

“But I do call my dad a lot for advice,” she said. “It’s a good feeling for me knowing that I get to work with my dad. I don’t think I could ever live up to what he has done here.”

Chief Miller said he feels his daughters stand on a pedestal with the accomplishments they have made. But his crowning moment came when Sergeant Miller graduated from technical school, and he was asked to be the guest speaker at her graduation.

“At my daughter’s graduation, I was the one who pinned her badge on,” Chief Miller said. “That, along with being the guest speaker, was a choking moment for me. Not too many fathers get that opportunity.”

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