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From finance to flightline; Both sides of the mission

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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sharon Miller, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron inflight refueler, poses for a photo in her Airman battle uniform and flight suit, September 26, 2017 at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Miller trained at Altus AFB for a short time becoming an inflight refueler, but before that she was stationed here as a financial analyst. (U.S. Air Force photo Illustration by Airman 1st Class Cody Dowell/released)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Oklahoma -- At Altus Air Force Base, students are constantly undergoing training with the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker. The students hail from all around the world to train here, but some don’t have to go that far.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sharon Miller, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron inflight refueler, trained at Altus AFB for a short time, but before that she was stationed at Altus AFB as a financial analyst.

“For the permeant party members and the students the mission for Altus is to forge combat mobility forces,” said Miller. “Now that I’ve gone through the training to be a boom operator, I have a better understanding of what exactly I was supporting all along.”

Luckily she didn’t have to travel far to get this understanding, since her training was at Altus AFB. Even so, there was still plenty of help from her fellow Airmen assisting her on her transition.

“My leadership was supportive with my switch even though they were losing me,” said Miller. “The start of the transition was hard because of the Air Force’s manning needs. It took a while for the paperwork, it wasn’t hard, it was just a process. Once I started training, it was smooth sailing from there. The instructors were great and you could really tell that they had their hearts in it.”

Switching career paths is a difficult and serious decision for anyone, even more so for those in the armed forces.

“If an opportunity arrives, don’t give up,” said Miller. “Even if you don’t make it, something else could come up. Things have come up in my life that I didn’t think I was going to do. Always look out for that chance to better yourself.”

Miller’s life in the Air Force and the people in her life broaden the idea of what she truly wanted out of her life and career.

“Hearing about my husband being a boom operator and myself being deployed really called me to the operational field,” said Miller. “Knowing about what the boom operator’s career is like definitely guided me to that familiar path. Over the years little seeds got planted in my head about switching, but they didn’t take root till recently.”

Altus AFB has two distinct sides for its personnel, those who support the mission and the students themselves. Miller got the unique opportunity to experience both firsthand.

“The entire training process was the best and worst thing I have ever done,” said Miller. “Being back training at Altus was refreshing, not so much when I was doing SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training. I valued all the survival tactics I learned, but you always hope that the worst case scenario doesn’t happen. In the end it was a different feeling being on that side of the flightline back at Altus.”

Going from a training environment to actively participating in the operational field is a change every student must undergo.

“It’s a completely different environment in the operational field,” said Miller. “The end result is worth it. For me, it was that first time I was behind the boom and the other aircraft showed up to refuel. It was an overwhelming feeling that words just can’t describe.”

Going to a new base is different for everyone, especially when leaving an old career behind.

“I’m going to miss Altus. You know everyone and the community enjoyed having us here,” said Miller. “The people make this place great, but it’s a small Air Force and I know I will probably be back eventually.”`

Miller is taking everything she learned from being stationed at this base and everything she learned training here into the operational Air Force. She is no longer assisting with forging combat mobility forces because she became a combat mobility force.