A genuine love for the community and a sincere desire to protect its citizens is the force that drives retired Maj. Hans Miller, who currently serves as the Onslow County sheriff.
Miller served in the Marine Corps for 20 years. It was during that time when he found his true calling helping and protecting others. According to Miller, he was inspired to join the service by the words of his stepfather who served in the Air Force. He told Miller that the Marines are the best and these words resonated with Miller, instilling his desire to become a Marine.
“I was 17 years old,” said Miller as he reminisced about his first months in the service. “I knew that the Marine Corps was for me.”
According to Miller, one of his proudest moments was standing on the parade deck and being called a Marine for the first time. After boot camp, Miller was sent to Camp Geiger for military occupational specialty training in field artillery fire direction control.
“Those are the guys who compute the quadrant and deflection of the guns to make sure that they hit the target and nothing else,” said Miller as he explained the MOS.
During his first duty station at Twentynine Palms, California, Miller learned about military police work while training with MPs. According to him, this was something he enjoyed and ignited his pursuit of law enforcement.
“Something about that billet kind of stayed with me,” said Miller. “I had the opportunity to work with Palm Springs Police and team up with a civilian police officer. I knew at that moment that law enforcement was something I wanted to do.”
Miller did two Mediterranean floats with a Marine Amphibious Unit, now known as Marine Expeditionary Unit. He had the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures.
“I was able to visit the southern part of Europe; Spain, France, Italy, Sigonella, Sicily, Greece and Turkey,” said Miller.
Miller grinned with pride, as he recalled his second trans-Atlantic crossing coming back stateside. According to Miller, he was on a signal bridge from where he could see the USS Guadalcanal and USS Iwo Jima.
“I was up on the signal bridge talking to Sailors … all of a sudden we saw that all five ships in our squadron aligned in one line. We looked at each other and said ‘what is going on?’ ... It was almost like a formation and then we saw it... Over the horizon, we saw a puff of smoke. As it got close (we realized) it was an Air Force B-52 flying very low. As the B-52 crossed over our (view) they gave the salute. I was so proud to be an American,” said Miller, as he explained the honor and delight he felt as a Marine on a Navy ship, who had experienced for the first time the brotherhood among American service members.
“You are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and all of a sudden an Air Force (aircraft) comes over and gives you the salute,” said Miller. “We gave the salute back, but with our flags. I remember as if it was yesterday.”
Thanks to his focus and determination to pursue his education, Miller qualified for the enlisted commissioning officer program and was able to transition from enlisted to officer.
“I qualified and applied to go to the OCS program,” said Miller. “I was accepted.”
After 12 years in the Marines, Miller left the enlisted ranks as a gunnery sergeant to earn his commission as an officer. Upon completing Officer Candidate School, he was assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“Military police is something that really generated enthusiasm for me,” said Miller. “I was assigned to the base MP and I had a platoon. I had some good Marines that were military policemen.”
Miller’s military experience in the law enforcement field is vast. As an officer, he was able to lead hundreds of Marines and work in different capacities, which provided him with experience not only in field operations, but also in anti-terrorism, security and crime prevention.
“As a first lieutenant being a company commander to 450 something Marines — you learn to work with staff noncommissioned officers,” said Miller. “SNCOs are the backbone. You take leaders and let them lead as long as they keep you informed.”
The humble veteran completed his twilight tour serving as provost marshal at Marine Corps Air Station New River and retired in 1997.
After retirement, Miller went to work for the State Bureau of Investigations as a special agent.
“I started out doing homicide investigations, did that at a 10-county area, so I was always on the road. The now governor who used to be the attorney general, created a computer crime unit,” said Miller. “I was one of the first eight agents in the state of North Carolina, who started out at the computer crimes unit.”
The program is called Internet Crimes Against Children. According to Miller, the mission is to save children from being preyed upon by people on the internet.
“When I went to ICAC, I was (also) sworn in with the FBI,” said Miller. “I was cross sworn because I was an SBI agent, but I also carried FBI credentials.”
Miller worked with district attorneys and the attorney general handling state and federal cases for more than a decade and retired from the state. Before running for sheriff, he worked as a Crime Scene Investigations supervisor and as the police chief at Ellis Airport.
“I’ve seen the need for many years, since I was active duty, to bring the sheriff’s office to the 21st century,” said Miller. “I decided to run for the office for sheriff and on Dec. 1, 2014, I was sworn in. In a very short time, we were able to focus on the right direction. On the eighth of this month, the people of Onslow County decided that I should stay and I will comply with their request.”
According to Miller, his goal is to increase training, responsiveness and to keep the crime rate down in Onslow County.
“We want to keep going in the right direction,” said Miller. “Honor, integrity is who we are, but I want to be more active in schools and churches to protect people.
Miller also highlighted his goals for reducing the number of domestic violence cases and eliminating child abuse and sexual abuse, as well as continue to fight against drug dealers.
“We have been hit with a big opioid situation. We have been very successful in parts of our county to reduce the dope dealers. We have been very successful in that and we are going to continue on,” said Miller. “For me it’s service to the country, service to the state, now county — service to the people.”
Miller attributes his motivation and leadership skills to his time in the Marine Corps.
“I am motivated,” said Miller. “I love to learn and try to do the best I can, but I am also very self-critical and (think) ‘could I have done better?’ Sometimes, I wish some people would be more self-critical rather than blaming everybody else. If one of my people does something wrong it’s my responsibility; if one of my people does something right they get the credit — that is leadership. I always take the blame when something (bad) happens, but when something good happens, I always give credit to the person who helped me accomplish it.”
The retired major is extremely involved in the community and strives to keep citizens informed and safe.
“I feel an obligation to let our citizens know what’s going on. I have a lot of reports to go through,” said Miller who is also on the statewide domestic violence commission board for domestic violence.
“Whenever we can do anything good for our people and our county you will see us there,” said Miller. “I was on the steward committee for the Child Advocacy Center. Before we had one, so we got our heads together and we made it happen.”
Miller’s advice to Marines planning for the future is to be self-disciplined.
“Stay honest with yourself,” said Miller. “You don’t have to have someone discipline you if you are self-disciplined. Focus on the mission. Stay positive. Uphold the ethos of being a Marine.”
His advice for leaders is to focus on their education, to become more involved and to lead by example.
“Never quit learning; sometimes the best way to learn is to talk to your troops, because your troops may see things that you may not see. Sometimes you sit down with them — don’t let them forget that you are the staff sergeant — but ask ‘tell me what is going on.’ Be involved, even in off-duty time. Give them guidance and set the example. That is probably the biggest thing that leadership does — set the example.”