July 24, 2003
Memphis Marine Andy Miller Returns Home From Iraq War
Scotland County has a strong heritage of service in the nation's armed forces. One of the community's newest veterans, Andy Miller, returned to Memphis this week after serving in Iraq during the war to liberate the Middle East country.
Miller, a 1996 graduate of Scotland County R-I High School enlisted in the United States Marines right out of school. He went to boot camp in San Diego, CA, July 15, 1996. He completed his four-year enlistment at Camp Pendelton in San Diego.
Andy maintained his ties with the Corp enlisting in the reserves. He made the decision to return to serve his country following the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Not long after joining the reserves his unit was activated in January of 2002 as part of the National Homeland Defense initiative. He was part of a quick-response unit that was trained to be sent into action against any terrorist activities with his unit maintaining a six-hour response time for any calls.
During his training Andy attended a number of Marine schools including sniper training. It was the later that ultimately earned his role in the war that was beginning to unfold in the Middle East.
After a little more than a year at Camp Pendelton serving in the national security role, Miller's reserve unit was attached to the 1st Marine Division that was headed to Kuwait.
"Basically we were attached to the division to serve as scout forces for various battalions," Miller said. "Essentially we were the eyes and ears for each battalion as we went out in small groups ahead of the main body to observe the enemy, determine size and strength of the opposition and to select targets for our strikes."
The move to the Middle East started in February of 2003 when the 1st Marine Division was sent to Kuwait. The forces began massing in an enormous staging area less than 30 miles from the Iraqi border.
"This place was huge, covering several miles as all of the Marines, Army and British forces were all coming together for a possible strike into Iraq," Miller said.
It was at this staging area that Andy was able to make contact with his younger brother, Robbie Miller, who had joined the Marines after graduating from SCR-I last year. Robbie was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, where Andy fortunately had a few friends from his service history. They were able to help Andy locate his brother and Andy traveled the more than two miles across the camp to meet up with Robbie.
Things rapidly changed after that one-day family reunion as the forces began to strike across the border as the war erupted in March. On March 21 Andy's unit crossed the border and the march was on for Baghdad.
"From that point on it was pretty much a race to Baghdad," Andy said "The Army was moving forward in the West with the British taking the east and the Marines, we were going right up the middle."
Miller said the advance was like a game of leapfrog as units would move forward and take a position and hold the spot while additional units moved on to take the next location. Of course Miller said once the forces began entering the various cities along the route it no longer was a game as the first opposition was encountered.
As the Marines pushed on towards the Iraqi capital the resistance became greater. Initially the battles were short and sweet with limited opposition. But by the time his unit arrived in Baghdad, Miller said the fire fights were lasting five or six hours as the Iraqi forces attempted to make their final stand.
His unit spent roughly two weeks in Baghdad. After taking a minister of defense site in the capital Andy and his unit were stationed on top of the high rise building to secure the area and maintain control of the surrounding region through their long-range weapon capabilities.
After leaving Baghdad Miller's group set up camp some 30 miles from the city. The reservists now became specialists changing from soldiers to humanitarians.
Because a number of his unit had law enforcement experience, Miller's group initially was charged with training locals to become officers in the new Iraqi police force. Other reservists with construction skills, plumbing or electronic backgrounds were pressed into service helping the local people restore basic services and utilities.
"That part of the mission was so impressive as we put our efforts into getting everything back into working order for the people whose lives had been interrupted by the war," Miller said.
Of course all the time Andy was lending a hand in the humanitarian effort he also had an ear out for news about brother Robbie. He regularly contacted friends and watched the Marines medical lists knowing that no news was good news.
Ultimately Andy's reserve unit was demobilized and they returned to the United States June 1st. The demobilization process took a few weeks before Andy was finally allowed to take leave and tend to his personal affairs, including a return trip to Memphis to visit his parents, Glen and Suzie Miller, family and friends. Andy had hoped to bring Robbie along for the trip but his younger brother is still overseas in Iraq after the Marines continued to push back the return date for many of the soldiers because of the continued fighting in Iraq.
Andy remains on active duty but he will be on leave from his unit until September 1st. That will mark the completion of his eighth year with the Marines, with the later four years being served as a reservist.
Miler says he plans to re-enlist with the reserves but hopes to be able to go back and finish college.
"I'll be heading back to San Diego and going back to college and hopefully they'll let me finish this time. The last three times I've been in school the Marines have kept pulling me back in." Miller joked.