Be who you needed when you were younger; 45th SW Airman chosen for Army social work program

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zoe Thacker
  • 45th Space Wing Public Affairs

In a grocery store, staring in the middle of the aisle at the sparkling water, stands 1st Lt. Miah Aranda. Though there may not be significance in the water to many, Aranda is frozen in thought while gazing at the overpriced bottles; memories of a young girl worried about where her next meal would come from dancing through her head.

Aranda, 45th Comptroller Squadron Financial Analysis flight commander, looks back on her childhood with mostly blank recollection. Good and bad memories alike, there seems to be a mental block there. However, there are some things she does remember.

“My mother had to work and couldn’t find a sitter for my siblings and I, so she left us home with our father,” recounts Aranda. “He was never able to control his alcoholism or his hot temper and was in a mood this day, so he took it out on my brother and I.”

Her father tossed her and her brother outside jacketless on a chilly evening.

“We played for hours, not understanding why we were forced outside,” said Aranda. “Then as the sun went down, my brother, who was about seven at the time, made the executive decision to seek shelter in the dog house. We cuddled our golden retriever for warmth that night, until mom came home and was devastated at her babies asleep in the doghouse. After that, we were never left alone with him again.”

From a young age, with newly divorced parents, two younger sisters and her eldest brother, she recalls having to grow up fast.

“Some children take their parents getting a divorce extremely hard, but in my case, it was a liberating feeling,” said Aranda. “We finally escaped the mental and physical abuse bestowed upon us by my father.”

With her parents divorce came financial hardship for their family; as Aranda’s mother became the sole provider for her children. However, she recalls her mother always teaching her to be creative with whatever they had.

“I owe my talent and abilities to maintaining a positive outlook on life to my beautiful mother,” said Aranda. “She is why I have been able to grow and aspire to help others by seeing her selfless acts. Even with what little my family had, we leaned on love.”

Working her way through full-time college and a job, Aranda joined the ROTC detachment at her school and soon commissioned as a Finance officer; taking her childhood experiences and channelling them into becoming the leader she always knew she could be, and the one that others needed.

“I love finance,” said Aranda. “I love the career field, the job and I love the people. But I always felt myself drawn more toward the people aspect of leadership. I know lots of people say their purpose comes down to helping people and I feel that way as well, which is why I decided to go for the social work program.”

In October of 2020, Aranda was one of the two Air Force selectees to gain entry into the U.S. Army-University of Kentucky (UK) Master of Social Work (MSW) Program. Upon completion of this program, Aranda will have earned an appointment as an officer in the Air Force Biomedical Sciences Corps (BSC) as a Clinical Social Worker.

“In my current career, I have the responsibility of processing Death Gratuity payments to pay grieving families of fallen Airmen,” said Aranda. “It pains me to see an unnecessary continuous flow of these payment requests, due to suicide, come through my office. I understand that Social Work is a very challenging and externally thankless career and only wish to help the military do better.”

Doing better, said Aranda, goes hand in hand with the opportunities her acceptance to the program will bring her and all of the Airmen she comes into contact with from here on out.

“There are so many aspects of social work, but I just want to make sure the people I am around and the Air Force as a whole, knows that I am here as just one more person trying to make this world a better one,” said Aranda. “I’m an advocate for resilience and I’m an advocate for having empathy for people.”

Even if you have people around you bringing you down or people not there at all, there are resources to help you get out of where you are and become who you want to be, continued Aranda.

“I think a lot of people are focused on the way they’re perceived and not what they actually need,” said Aranda. “Do not give up on what you feel is right for yourself.”

Aranda’s goals to be the best leader she can be, combat the rising suicide rate in the Armed Forces and show empathy for her Wingmen, seems to all stem from the little girl sleeping in the doghouse. And standing in the aisle of a grocery store, reflecting on all it’s taken to get to this point, it wouldn’t be far off to say that Aranda is on the right track to becoming the leader that little girl needed.