Home for Christmas

By: 
John Mueller, news@newpraguetimes.com

Brad and Samantha Miller of New Prague and their children, (from left) Wyatt, Ariana and Jayden, recently celebrated Brad’s return home in time for Christmas from a deployment to Djibouti in the horn of Africa. Master Sgt. Brad Miller is a flight engineer on a C-130 cargo aircraft with the 133rd Aircraft Wing. The 133rd arrived back in the Twin Cities Dec. 8 in time for its members to enjoy the holiday with their families. (Submitted photo)

New Prague airman finished the mission to make it home in time

He tried not to dwell on the upcoming holiday with his wife and children back half way around the world. Instead, Master Sgt. Brad Miller focused on his work each day and maintained confidence he and his fellow airmen would be home for Christmas.

Although the orders Miller and his Minnesota Air National Guard unit, the 133rd Airlift Wing, were operating under were intended to have him back with his wife, Samantha, and their three children, Jayden, 8; Ariana, 7; and Wyatt, 2, in New Prague by Dec. 8, there were factors way out of his control that could prevent the unit from making the trip from Djibouti, Africa, to Minnesota in time. So instead of dwelling on what he couldn’t control, Miller kept his mind on what was within his control and did his job each day as a flight engineer on a C-130 cargo aircraft.

Miller and his unit were in Djibouti on a humanitarian mission supporting international relations. The C-130 is a highly versatile cargo aircraft, he said. Miller was part of a crew moving supplies around the region as needed to support the mission. The unit arrived there in August. The unit’s stay was intended to minimize the impact on family time for the airmen and their families. Members of the 133rd missed Thanksgiving at home, a schedule allowing a replacement group to be at home but be in country in time for Miller and his comrades to be home for Christmas.

“There are a lot of things that can happen that delay things. Those things are part of the mission and you accept them,” he said.

The mission was routine with little reason for stress. Miller was never directly in harm’s way though there were times the unit experienced heightened readiness based on events in the region. His work involved supervising other flight engineers and making sure their aircraft were ready for flights.

“In other words, it was a lot of ‘go-fer’ work,” he said.

The airmen worked 12-hour shifts. He was able to hold Facetime calls home to see Sam and their children a few times each week. The biggest challenge to the calls was the time difference. Djibouti is eight hours ahead of Minnesota. While the calls were helpful, they were a reminder for the veteran airman of how much he missed his family. Since Sam is with the Minnesota Air National Guard herself, she also understands the nature of deployments. The couple was as straightforward as they could be with their young children.

“The internet (on the base) is fairly decent,” he said. “But it was hard to make the calls every day.”

“We were pretty open with them. We didn’t know when dad would be able to call,” Sam said. “We told them dad was supposed to be home for Christmas, but there was always a chance something might happen.”

“We tried to give them realistic expectations,” Brad said. The children kept a bean jar for counting. Each day their...

To see more on this story pick up the December 21, 2023 print edition of The New Prague Times. 

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