For the love of flying

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alvaro Villagomez
  • 100 ARW/PA

ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England -- Originally born in the Netherlands, Christopher Ryan “Red” Miller grew up in a military family, surrounded by a sense of duty, patriotism and commitment. Even at an early age, Red felt the commitment to serve calling. He knew joining the military service was inevitable.

Now, Lt. Col. Miller is the 100th Air Refueling Wing plans and programs chief and an expert pilot and navigator.

“Family tradition put me on the inevitable path of someday joining the military; though, I never felt obligated because my entire family chose to serve,” said Miller. “By the time it came to enlist, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do. So, I enlisted in the Navy.”

Miller enlisted in 1999, as a Navy nuclear reactor mechanic. Six years later, Miller received his commission from the U.S. Naval Academy. Shortly thereafter, he earned his Wings of Gold, which signify a naval aviator’s official completion of basic helicopter training. He then became a U.S. Navy HH-60H Seahawk helicopter pilot and ultimately a Navy special warfare helicopter mission lead.

“I was flying helicopters constantly and was being deployed all over the world,” said Miller. “I think within the 19 years of being in the Navy, I was gone for over eight of those years.”

During his Navy deployments, Miller worked and flew in at least 40 different countries and has the memories and stories, both good and bad, to back it up.

Miller’s favorite deployment moments were getting the opportunity to connect with local communities and work with foreign militaries all over the world.

“I remember being deployed to the Philippines and we had the opportunity to work with Filipino troops near Fort Magsaysay,” said Miller. “There were some kids that came to us and were amazed to see our cool uniforms and helmets. We let them climb into the helicopters, it was a really great experience for both us and them.”

After nine deployments and 15 years flying for the Navy, Miller chose to transition to the Air Force. While his years flying for the Navy were coming to an end, the Air Force would give Miller the chance to stay in the air.

“I flew helicopters in the Navy until 2019, when the Air Force gave me another chance to fly,” said Miller. “It was bittersweet leaving the Navy, but flying is my passion. I just love the freedom of being up in the air. I’ve got over 4,000 flight hours and every time I takeoff, it is the most awesome experience imaginable.”

Even with an abundance of flight experience, Miller always strives to improve each time he climbs into a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.

“As I get older, I try to think of ways on how I can impact folks, especially in aviation. At the end of the day no one will ever be perfect but we can always strive for greatness. I try to set the example of what I think a professional aviator should be,” said Miller.

To this day, Miller continues to seek out ways he can improve in the air. With 23 years of military service and more to come, he hopes he can continue to take to the air to get as close to perfect as possible.

“I’m definitely proud of everything I’ve done throughout my career, flying has become a part of me,” concluded Miller. “My take on life, personal relationships, work, and just about everything is that you’ll never be perfect but you can always try to get a little bit better each day.”