On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Maryanne Miller was a successful restaurateur and a part-time Air Force Reserve pilot.
Until that day, she was considering retiring from her military job.
“As I watched on TV that second tower come crashing down, I knew retirement was not the right answer,” she said. “Four months from that day I was back flying full time again. A year later I was deployed.”
She shared those recollections with about 500 people at the Museum of Aviation on Friday after she became the first female to be named commander of Air Force Reserve Command and chief of the Air Force Reserve.
She was promoted to lieutenant general during a closed ceremony earlier Friday.
She took command the day after one of the worst terrorist attacks since Sept. 11. A man drove a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, killing 84 people.
Gen. David Goldfein, the new Air Force chief of staff, told the audience that he called his counterpart in France on the way to the ceremony.
“After 9/11 our friends stated ‘Today, we are all American,’ ” Goldfein said as he introduced Miller. “Well, today we are all French, and we are united in our commitment to stand together.”
Air Force Reserve Command is based at Robins, but the chief of the Air Force Reserve position is a Pentagon job. Miller said after the ceremony she will spend Monday and Tuesday of each week at the Pentagon, then will be at Robins the rest of the week.
She has 4,800 flying hours in planes that include the C-5, C-17, C-141 and KC-10. She also holds a small arms expert marksman ribbon with a bronze star, which means she rated expert on both a pistol and a rifle.
She is replacing Lt. Gen. James Jackson, who is retiring after four years in that position. Miller will also serve four years.
Addressing reservists directly, Miller said she understands the challenges they face.
“I have been in your shoes, and I know how hard it is to balance your life as a citizen and your life as an airman,” she said.
She served the past three years as Jackson’s deputy at the Pentagon. She was commissioned in 1981 after earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Ohio State University. She has served 26 years in the Air Force Reserve.
Goldfein said she was the clear choice for the job.
“Gen. Miller brings a combination of a quietly intense warrior spirit, a passion for the mission, her airmen and their families, and a truly pure servant’s heart,” he said.