The mountains and valleys of Afghanistan are a far cry from the farm fields of northwest Ohio where Trent D. Miller has been studying for a master of business administration degree in leadership.The 32-year-old active duty Army captain is scheduled to receive his degree Saturday, Dec. 15, during commencement ceremonies in Savage Arena.
Miller, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot with more than 750 hours of combat flying time, isn’t your average college student. He shuns the idea that his neatly groomed hair is a “high and tight” — military jargon for the standard soldier haircut. He prefers to discuss his two combat deployments, the first to Iraq and the second to Afghanistan, in generic terms because he said at times it can be difficult to relate to his peers.
“The first term was a big shock. I hadn’t had to think or act like a student in nine years at that point,” said Miller, a married father with a 1-year-old son. “Army schooling is very different from civilian higher education, so it was challenging.”
The native of Columbus Grove, Ohio, said his father was a track runner while attending The University of Toledo for a couple of years in the 1960s, and his brother graduated from UT in 2007. The Army’s Expanded Graduate School Program, a developmental and retention tool created for captains, was the catalyst to bring Miller and his wife back to the Buckeye State. The program funded Miller’s studies at UT and will require an additional four-year active duty obligation.
“As a student, Trent Miller was terrific, intelligent, articulate, highly motivated,” said Dr. Clint Longenecker, Stranahan Professor of Leadership and Business Excellence in the College of Business and Innovation. “As a person, he demonstrates tremendous character in what he does, and he knows when to lead and he knows when to follow.”
Earning his commission through the Ohio State University Army ROTC Program in 2003, Miller graduated as a distinguished military graduate with a degree in natural resources. Later that year, he would attend flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., and marry his high school sweetheart, Denise.In fall 2005, Miller embarked on his first deployment as part of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade of the famous 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. As a platoon leader, he flew a variety of missions throughout Iraq; these included direct support to the four-star commanding general of Multi-National Force — Iraq U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr.
“All of the leadership-specific classes have been very applicable to what I have been doing the last nine years,” Miller said. “All of the faculty members, in my experiences, have been very receptive to my comments and input into the class.”
Between deployments, Miller served as the executive officer for the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Deputy Commanding General and assumed his first company command in spring 2009 at age 28.
As a company commander with the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade in Germany, Miller and his soldiers deployed to Afghanistan for medevac and general support missions; he was responsible for the lives of 63 soldiers and more than $40 million of equipment, including eight Black Hawk helicopters with a price of tag roughly $4 million apiece without weapons systems.
“I have a lot more marketable skills than I realized as an Army officer that relate directly to business,” said Miller, who is line to be promoted to the rank of major in 2013.
Following graduation, Miller and his family are scheduled to move to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he will attend the Army’s 10-month graduate school for mid-career officers at the Command and General Staff College.
“I know his career in the military will be exemplary in every respect,” Longenecker said. “He is a tremendous patriot, and he is a hero in the eyes of not just his professors, but his fellow students for taking care of the security of the United States.”