Laughing as she adjusts to life out of uniform, retired Chennault Fire Chief Charlene Miller is flanked by her successor, Chief Joshua Arnold, left, and Richard A. ''Rick'' Bauman Jr., senior vice president at G4S Government Solutions, at her retirement ceremony. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 1:05 AM
Chief Charlene Miller, a trailblazer in an occupation most often populated by men, has retired as head of the Fire and Rescue Department at Chennault International Airport.
Miller was honored at a retirement ceremony last week at Chennault.
Miller’s tenure as fire chief was marked by awards and achievement recognized at a national level. Her retirement was marked by tributes from colleagues.
“Chief Miller is a true pioneer. To tackle life as a firefighter, mother, wife and leader in a male-dominated field is unheard of,” said Anthony Ware, Chennault’s deputy director. “It was an honor for me to have worked with her.”
“I’ve worked for Chief Miller for almost 15 years now, and I’ve learned a lot from her leadership, her mentoring, her dedication to service,” said Joshua Arnold, assistant chief and Miller’s successor. “She strives for excellence, and she expects excellence from others.”
In 2003, after becoming chief, Miller earned the designation of chief fire officer — one of just 372 people worldwide to hold that title at the time.
Miller saw the department’s facilities grow and improve during her years as chief.
Until 2003, Chennault firefighters were housed in a converted three-bay mechanic shop dating from World War II. One of the service bays was closed in to serve as living quarters.
“It was all very makeshift,” Miller told Industrial Fire World magazine in a 2009 profile. “They added a canopy on the front because our apparatus would not fit in the existing bays.”
Then came a new fire station — a brick-and-mortar structure with four bays. It had offices, living quarters, an exercise room, training room, large dayroom, kitchen and three bathrooms. State-of-the-art technology and firefighting equipment now complement the facility.
Perhaps the greatest test of the department and its resources came from two incidents that had nothing to do with aviation emergencies.
2005 brought twin disasters to Louisiana — Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Miller and her crews helped bring in Katrina patients, got Rita patients out of the Lake Area, and took part in rescue and recovery efforts at Chennault immediately after Rita.
“Crisis situations were thrown at us,” Miller told the American Press in a 2006 profile recounting the storms. “We faced some unprecedented situations.”
Miller’s leadership in the aftermath of the storms gained national recognition. In 2006, she received the President’s Award from the International Association of Fire Chiefs “for exemplary leadership during the 2005 hurricanes.”