More than anything, as a youth growing up in Rupert, Idaho, U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Miller wanted to travel.
“Most my time in high school was spent between school and working,” Miller said in a recent interview. “I had never really been anywhere. I joined the Army because I was told I could travel the world. Travel the world is what I did.”
Miller enlisted into Army service under the motto “Be All That You Can Be.”
He thanks the Army for helping him to realize his goal.
Over the 30 years in his active-duty service career, Miller has worked in 46 of the United States, including Alaska, and has completed tours of duty in Bermuda, South Korea, Germany, Holland, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. He most recently served as the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion Command Sergeant Major, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Miller’s numerous distinctions earned—among them, the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara and the Army Superior Unit Award—are the milestones of a career spent serving and working with others to bring out their best.
“To me, professionally, nothing can compare to the joy and commitment of serving your nation. ‘Be All You Can Be’ has taught me patience, commitment, and discipline. I learned many valuable and unique talents. I learned to be a leader and acquired the emotional intelligence it takes to be better every day. It increased my personal confidence, strength and resiliency. I think overall, it has made me a better me.”
Miller and his family arrived on Kwajalein in late 2022. Soon after, he assumed responsibility from outgoing Command Sgt. Maj. Ismael Ortega. While stationed on Kwajalein Miller plans to explore the Pacific with his wife, Cat, and their son, Ethen. They have enjoyed getting to know the beautiful island community while they learn about their home together.
“Thank you to everyone who has made Kwaj a home for [my family] and myself. We continue to look forward to serving with each of you and hope to continue always looking forward to what we can do to make Kwaj amazing.”
To meet some of their new neighbors, the family recently has visited communities throughout the atoll. Miller said he was struck by the kindness and character of the Marshallese people.
“I love the Marshallese culture,” Miller said. “It’s such an amazing community, whose values on family, consideration, and concern for others is unmatched. I have had the chance to attend a few events, and I am always blown away with their appreciation of arts, dance and food. I am very thankful and blessed to be given the opportunity to serve on their beautiful islands.”
The aspiring traveler from Idaho has come a long way. He appreciates that he continues his journey as a Soldier.
“The Army has provided me all these opportunities, and I wouldn’t have changed anything,” Miller said.
He shared some practical tips for future Army recruits looking to the future and those hoping to make a difference.
“You can continue your service and learn valuable skills you can apply to your next job,” Miller said. “I have had the opportunity to travel and have earned a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Security for less than one month’s rent. I have made friends and been part of so many communities and cultures. The military is goal oriented. Its members come from all over the world and earn respect and prestige. Join, have fun, develop skills, and Be All You Can Be.”
On Building Leadership
The secret to being a good leader is that there is no secret, said Miller.
“You must develop your own style,” Miller said. “If I were to define the type of leader I want to be and want to try to follow, try to follow, it would be as follows:
1. Be Yourself. Be humble, be approachable and be empathetic. You must be willing receive feedback just as much as your willing to give it, and maybe most importantly, listen more than you talk.
2. Be the Example. We live in a glass houses. As leaders, the way we act and treat others is our instruction to them on how they should treat others. So, be that example.
3. It’s not the time to try and become a leader—you are a leader. So, develop new skills, confront deficiencies, and most of all, make a difference. A leader has the chance and potential to have the biggest impact on someone’s life. This responsibility should not be taken lightly, so again, be that example.
4. Influence and Inspire. Never underestimate the amount of influence a leader has. Every action you take, whether your aware of it or not, is closely scrutinized by everyone around you. So, be the example, and don’t compromise your standards.
5. Lastly, keep your promises, be authentic, be relevant, and be the leader you would follow.
Miller added: “One of my favorite quotes of all time is from John C. Maxwell: ‘The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects the wind to change; the leader adjusts the sails.’ Leadership can be as simple as adjusting the sails.”
An example of one such adjustment in action occurred recently on USAG-KA: an April 14 gathering of subject matter experts who shared program information with island residents during a community information exchange.
“One of our biggest challenges on Kwajalein is communication,” Miller said. “The garrison is implementing a Community Information Exchange. The purpose is to have many different groups, such as AAFES, medical and emergency services; the Emergency Operations Center; and Morale, Welfare and Recreation to put out information that is pertinent to the community.”
On Building Community
“It’s a small Island, and an even smaller community,” Miller said. “In my short few months, I have seen and heard many different things as it relates to the installation as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’”
Miller would like to ask the growing community on Kwajalein to help him accomplish a few valuable tasks.
1. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. It does not matter who you are: There is not one person that is more important than the other on this island. It’s our community and will only be as inviting as you make it.
2. Communicate—and over-communicate. If you see something, say something, help to fix it and get involved. Most of the time, miscommunication is the result of a misunderstanding or someone thinking they understand more than they do.
3. Do the right thing: Always! If it’s a rule and you don’t agree with it, follow it anyways. Rules are invented for many reasons, mostly safety-related—to create a stable environment to facilitate human co-existence in the community. You may not agree with the rules; however, it’s not about you—it’s about all of us. With that said, if there is something you don’t agree with, bring it up.
4. Social media can be an amazing part of a community. It can provide predictability, sharing and positive communication. It can also be a platform to seek win social validation, to criticize, to misinform or voice unrealistic expectations. Misuse of social media has real consequences: depression, anxiety, bullying and addiction.
“I have learned 99 percent of our community uses social media in a positive way,” Miller said. “What I ask is that you be careful of the remaining percent.
I encourage everyone to utilize their chain of command to address questions. Don’t “let it linger,” or wait for months without receiving an answer. Talk to your leadership, your human resources staff and follow up. Call the Commander’s Hotline at 480-1098 or use the private messenger on the USAG-KA Facebook page. Lastly, if your question is not getting answered, you are welcome to come see me or email [email protected].”