Chief Master Sgt. Recalls Unexpected Journey

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class David Bernal Del Agua
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
"He would walk into my office and say, 'Hey sarge.' Then he would take his fingers and run them across the desks, cabinets and partitions, because I was a female, and I guess I was supposed to clean the office," said Chief Master Sgt. Yvonne Miller.

"I dealt with it until the day he told me I couldn't make decisions because I was a female," she said. "I remember it like it was yesterday."

The road to success can be filled with challenges and speed bumps, and it was especially so for Miller, the 22nd Medical Group superintendent here at McConnell, during the beginning of her 29-year career.

She was the first female Air Force security specialist to be stationed in South Korea.

"When I landed in Korea, there were 200 people waiting for me," said Miller. "I didn't have any idea how big of a deal it was."

Her supervisor told her that people were going to judge her, they were not going to want her there and they were going to blame her when things went wrong, said Miller.

The men had to make changes for her such as installing a separate bathroom in the nuclear storage area.

Miller's supervisor also told her exactly what career challenges lay ahead, and his advice has stayed with her throughout her Air Force career.

"Just do a good job, and I'll take care of you," she recalls him saying.

Although Miller's 5-foot frame could give the stereotypical misconceptions on her ability to be bold, she's used her experiences as a security specialist to gain confidence.

While in Korea, she noticed an unidentified person had snuck under the fence while she provided security on the flightline one night.

She ran toward the fence, and then the unexpected happened.

"I tried yelling halt in Korean, and he didn't halt," said Miller. "I did it again, and he turned around and pointed a gun at my face. My life flashed before me."

She froze and was scared to death, but once a Republic of Korea soldier was close by, the man threw his gun down and took off running toward the fence line, said Miller.

That memory left a mark on her career. After that, she said she became a force to be reckoned with.

"She's rarely in a room that you're not aware that she's there," said Master Sgt. George Dotson, 22nd Medical Group first sergeant. "Not because she's loud, but because of the energy she brings to the room. It's contagious. She buzzes around all the time."

She retrained into the medical career field after eight years of security work, and learned there were still barriers to cross as being treated as an equal to her male counterparts.

At her next base, her new supervisor would time how long it would take for her to go from the first floor, where she worked, to the fourth floor.

He also told her that women needed to talk to their husbands before they made decisions because they couldn't lead or manage, said Miller.

"He tried embarrassing me in front of my Airmen, he tried to degrade me, and he tried to demean me," said Miller. "I can guarantee it was because I was a female."

Several assignments and a couple of promotions later to chief master sergeant, she met up with him again, and this time she was his supervisor.

Miller said she could have gotten payback, but wanted to be the bigger person.

She continued to help develop her Airmen throughout the years because she said she chose to do what she felt was right.

"Of all the chiefs I've ever worked with, she's bar none the best," said Dotson. "She is patient and helps mentor me. Ultimately, she made me a better first sergeant by taking the time to help."

Miller has always kept a healthy sense of balance on the things in her life throughout her career, but contributes her success to two factors.

"The two things that have gotten me through my entire Air Force career are faith and family, but you need to have balance," she said.

Her plan is to retire at McConnell in 2015 after serving 30 years.

"The Air Force is temporary for all of us, and she recognizes that," said Dotson. "You have to have that balance because your family is what's going to be left after the military. She's very devoted to her family outside of work, and she's found a way to almost meld the two."