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John Miller, of Cottage Grove, works on Marine intelligence during his Afghan deployment. Miller was promoted to corporal during one of the daily intelligence briefings he provides. Submitted photo by Sgt. Michele Watson

Cottage Grove's Miller compiling intelligence briefings during Marine deployment in Afghanistan

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As a 17-year-old, John Miller enlisted in the Marines with a focus on intelligence because it would help his post-military career prospects.

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It also provided Miller with impressive work while still in the Marines.

A Cottage Grove native, Miller is about halfway through his first overseas deployment, serving at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. The 19-year-old's job is to collect intelligence about the region's battle space and then present it daily at a briefing of 50 to 60 military officials including a commanding general.

The job can be stressful, Miller acknowledged. It also came with a big surprise recently.

Midway through one of his briefings Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, the commanding general, interrupted Miller. Broadmeadow scanned the room of senior officials and questioned why he was receiving an intelligence briefing from a young lance corporal.

"And then right there I got promoted," Miller said of his promotion to corporal.

A 2010 Park High School graduate, Miller enlisted in the Marines with a five-year contract and completed boot camp in San Diego. He went through combat training at Camp Pendleton in California and then traveled to Virginia for intelligence schooling. While there he started doing some "practice briefing."

"Either you're a good briefer or you're not," he said.

Miller returned to Camp Pendleton and deployed to southwestern Afghanistan in early February as part of the 1st Marine Logistics Group.

Assisting the general

Working overnights six days a week, Miller compiles intelligence items from a variety of sources.

"We have a lot of ways of getting stuff," he said.

Miller said he could not divulge where his information comes from or specifics about the data, only offering that it is meant to provide an accurate assessment of military and enemy actions in the region.

"I do research throughout the day (and) try to gather as much information as I can," he said. "It gets pretty stressful at times. You're trying to give the general what he needs to know, trying to paint a better picture for him."

Showtime comes at 8 a.m. each day, when Miller attends a daily briefing. There are two reports: operations, done by someone else, and his intelligence briefing. After the morning briefing, Miller said he and others discuss what occurred during the briefing. His shift ends after that.

Miller lives on base in a two-man room.

"They're not bad," he said of living conditions. "They have electricity, air conditioning."

Air conditioning is a big plus since the average temperature in Afghanistan is in the low 100s during the day and the mid-80s at night, he said. There's no rain.

Miller has computer and Internet access and uses Skype --"when it decides to work" -- to talk with his girlfriend, fellow Park graduate Sam Delaney, and his family and friends. He has a two-week leave scheduled for later this month. While home in Cottage Grove, he'll celebrate his 20th birthday, visit with his girlfriend and family and "maybe catch a Twins game with my dad."

Miller's family is impressed by his work.

"He has to take the (intelligence) information and he analyzes it," said his mother, Brenda Aleshire of Cottage Grove. "What he's doing is just amazing, and a lot rides on what he is taking from the information out in the field so that the troops are protected."

"I'm really proud of him," Aleshire added.

Military service runs in Miller's family. His mother and father, Mike Miller of Chanhassen, both served in the Navy. He has an aunt and other relatives who also served. Aleshire said she has researched the family and discovered they had ancestors who served in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

The Marines was a good fit for Miller, his mother said, because he likes to write but didn't want to go to college right away after high school. He wanted to experience life, she said.

"It's a good path, I think, for people who want to get out there and be on their own and do something for their country," she said.

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Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
(651) 459-7600
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