German achieves dream through U.S. Air Force service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Every Airman has a unique story that led them to where they are now. Capt. Sandra Mueller, Task Force 214 chief of combat assessments and readiness is no different.

"I'm fascinated by the various paths people travel that leads them to become Airmen in our Air Force," said Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Task Force 214 and 20th Air Force commander. "Captain Mueller's story is absolutely remarkable."

Mueller was born in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany but spent most of her childhood in Langenfeld, Germany. From an early age, she nurtured an admiration for the U.S. after visiting New York.

"I was impressed with the American way of life," she said. "The culture, the American Dream, everything the U.S. stood stands for, it all intrigued me."

Capt Mueller had been telling her family that she wanted to join the Air Force since she was 8 years old. It wasn't until a family visit to New York for her ninth birthday that her father realized that it was the U.S. Air Force after Mueller pointed out an Airman in uniform. 

"I spent my birthday near Rock Tavern, N.Y.," she said. "It was one of the most amazing experiences I've had. Seeing the New York skyline for the first time--words can't describe it. It's a symbol of freedom."

Mueller said that's when she decided she truly wanted to move to America. When she was 12 years old, she got her chance. On 1 July 1998, her family moved to New York for her father's work.

"It was my dream to live in the U.S. for so long and suddenly, I was granted the opportunity," she said.

Mueller had only spent a year studying English in Germany, and had difficulty grasping the language at first.

"The change was overwhelming," she said. "I barely spoke English and now I was placed into a new country that only spoke English."

Mueller had difficulties communicating in school due to the language barrier. It was also a big culture change for her. 

"The first day of school I distinctly remember my confusion during the Pledge of Allegiance," Mueller said. "I had never placed my hand over my heart and sworn to a country."

"It took me at least six months to get a hang of English to be proficient enough to communicate my thoughts and needs."

She connected with friends at school who helped her adapt to the new culture and pick up the new language, she said.

During her time in New York, her family received a Green Card which is part of the immigration process of becoming a permanent resident.

After completing middle and high school in New York, Mueller began making strides towards achieving her Air Force dream from when she was eight.

"While in Germany, I yearned to join the U.S. Air Force," she said. "The respect and admiration the U.S. has for those in uniform is unlike any other country. The pride and honor Airmen have in the Air Force drove my dreams of joining."

Mueller decided to go to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., in order to join the Air Force ROTC program there.

After meeting the five year time requirement of having been a lawful permanent resident, Mueller became eligible to apply for citizenship while in Florida.

"The citizenship test was a good way for me to learn what the country and the American Flag stand for," she said. "I swore in as a citizen on March 7, 2006, which was a huge step for me and a dream come true."

Gaining citizenship was the stepping stone Mueller needed to earn her commission in the U.S. Air Force an as officer. 

"It opened the doors for me to be able to go to field training, which is a prerequisite to completing the ROTC program," she said. "At that moment, I was able to fulfill my dreams of becoming part of the U.S. Air Force."

In order to officially join as an officer, Mueller had to renounce her German citizenship.

"The U.S. military has a great reputation throughout the world," she said. It all comes down to the pride and reputation of being in the U.S. Air Force and being a symbol of freedom throughout the world."

Mueller achieved her dream of joining the Air Force in May 2008.

"I'm pleased that the American dream still resonates around the world, and I'm especially proud we can attract high-caliber talented citizens like Sandra to serve our Nation," Weinstein said. "She's a dynamic leader performing exceptional work in our ICBM force.  She is a role model for our ICBM force."

Mueller's first assignment was at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. as a missileer, providing nuclear deterrence for the United States and its allies.

She arrived at 20th Air Force in October 2014, where she is responsible for monitoring logistic assessments to determine combat readiness for Task Force 214, and to oversee, collect, and review data and lessons learned reports to identify any gaps in readiness. 

Mueller says her goal is to make the Air Force a career.

"The Air Force is my career," she said.  "I will continue to serve until I no longer get chills at the sound of the National Anthem."

Mueller attributes her success to the continuous support she receives from her parents, husband, friends, and leadership.