Charlie Miles joined the military to find a challenge, do something important, and to make a difference.
But he also wanted to fly.
“I was part of that ‘Top Gun’ generation that thought it would be awesome to be a military pilot,” says Miles, director of military employment at $24 billion asset PenFed Credit Union in Tysons, Va.
Miles joined the U.S. Marines Corps and for 20 years he flew KC-130s, an aerial refueling and cargo transport aircraft.
“We would do everything from refueling helicopters and aircraft in flight to setting up forward deployed refueling stations on the ground for helicopters,” says Miles, who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and flew 45 combat missions. “We would also do aerial delivery of cargo and paratroopers and standard cargo missions as well.”
One of Miles’ most memorable missions was in April 2003 when he took part in a rescue of seven American soldiers—five of whom had been captured with U.S. Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch from the 507th Maintenance Company in Iraq. Miles flew the KC-130 that took them out of Iraq to Kuwait.
“We went into a field that we had just captured, so the runway was still littered with destroyed equipment and craters from shelling,” he recalls. “It was a challenging airfield to fly into and out of for us, but we got all of the American prisoners out.”
Miles also spent seven years as an officer recruiter for the Marine Corps, an experience that would benefit his post-military life.
After retiring from the Marine Corps as a Major in 2012, Miles knew he didn’t want to be a commercial pilot and that he wanted to help veterans. He worked for a government contractor recruiting veterans before joining PenFed in August 2018.
Now, his mission is to aid servicemembers and military spouses in finding meaningful employment through career readiness and advocacy.
“It’s not just for PenFed,” Miles says. “It’s larger than that. I provide them with the tools they need to help them in their career journey, wherever that takes them.”
Miles says the greatest lesson he learned in the military was being a leader who places the team before himself.
“The team's not there to serve you, you’re there to serve them and provide them with the tools they need to succeed in their mission,” which includes direction, inspiration, motivation, training, and equipment, he says. “It’s not about your own individual success, it’s about the team’s success.”
► Click here for more coverage of the Salute to Veterans on CUNA News.