'Quick decision' leads woman from Taft on world-wide tour of duty

Join the Navy and see the world.
For Michele Miley – then Michele Lyn Woods, a 1992 graduate of Taft Union High School – the decision to see the world came in November of that year after she had completed the summer semester and was nearing the end of her fall semester at Taft College.
On Friday, May 10, Chief Petty Officr Miley will end a more than 20-year career in the Navy.
Joining the Navy “was a quick decision on the weekend,” said Miley, who was in town over the weekend to visit family. “I was bored and working two jobs.
“I didn't want to be there (in college) and the Navy sounded exciting. I can do that.”
She took a couple of Navy tests and three weeks later was on her way to boot camp.
“There were no second thoughts,” Miley said.
Looking back on her career, she said: “I did enjoy it. I think I would have chosen a different field, medical or something with the air community (being outside). In my job we were locked in a room with no windows.”
From basic training at Orlando, Fla., Miley went to advanced training to become a cryptologic technician at Pensacola, Fla., then to her first duty station with the Atlantic Intelligence Command at Norfolk, Va.
By November 1996, Miley – who had married Stephen Miley and had a young son, David – was starting to see the world. Or at least, she was seeing that part of the world represented by Naval Computer Telecommunications Station Diego Garcia.
Diego Garcia is a coral atoll in the central Indian Ocean near the Equator. Miley served there for 13 months, conducting remote site classified communications.
Next came two years in Bahrain, a series of islands in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia. There Miley was with the Commander U.S. Navy Forces Central Command, providing mission support to the staff and ships within the gulf.
Her next duty station was much closer to home and much more scenic and pleasant that Diego Garcia or Bahrain. She spent the next three years at Fleet Intelligence Training Center Pacific in San Diego, providing communications support.
Then a veteran of more than 10 years in the Navy, Miley headed to sea in the spring of 2003 aboard the amphibious assault craft the USS Belleau Wood. She was with the Belleau Wood, including a deployment in the Western Pacific Ocean, until the ship was decommissioned. The Belleau Wood was named for a battle in World War I.
Then she returned to Fleet Intelligence in San Diego.
But the San Diego assignment included an individual augmentee tour in Baghdad, Iraq, and promoion to chief petty officer.
“I spent seven months in Baghdad,” Miley said. “It was rough. We spent a lot of time in Kevelar (bullet-proof vests). You took your helmet, vest and M-16 rifle everywhere that you went.
“We provided technical support for the joint operations center: Army, Navy, Marines and multi-national forces, Australian, Korean, French, British, Israeli.
“I wasn't happy to be there but it was an important role. A lot was going on there.
“(Saddam) Hussein was in custody but there were still bombings and shootings. A lot of stray fire. No one was shot that I knew … (but) I was in groups that were shot at.
“There was a mosque tower nearby with occasional snipers. They had to sweep the tower occasionally.”
Returning to San Diego and then to sea, Miley was assigned to the destroyer USS Milius for more than two years. Miley and the Milius completed two training cycles and two ballistic missile defense independent steaming deployments.
On the Milius, she was “in charge of all the communications with different ships … radio communications and networking,” Miley said.
In January 2011, Miley joined Destroyer Squadron 21, serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis for two Western Pacific deployments.
During her career Miley earned a number of decoratiuons including the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and various campaign and service awards. She is an E-7, the third highest rank for enlisted personnel.
He retirement ceremoney will be in San Diego. The Mileys live in Santee and son David is in college in New York. Her plans include attending Grossmont College and going into nursing or some other area of the medical field.