Q&A with Rod Miranda ’98 | Commanding Officer of the Strike Fighter Weapons School, Atlantic
By Jessica Rice ’12
Rod Miranda ’98 embodies the Webb School of California motto: Principes, non Homines – Leaders, not Common Men. During nearly two decades of service, Miranda has established himself as a leader within the United States Navy. He currently serves as Commanding Officer of the Strike Fighter Weapons School, Atlantic, which is responsible for the tactical standardization for all East Coast squadrons of the Navy’s premiere Strike Fighter aircraft — the F/A-18 Super Hornet. As Commanding Officer, he is responsible for 200 officers, enlisted sailors and government civilians. All air crew under his command are graduates of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) of which he is also a graduate. Miranda has spent over 2,800 hours in flight, and completed over 300 carrier arrested landings. Today, his organization provides post-graduate level training for F/A-18 Strike Fighter tactics, mission planning, strike intelligence, air-launched weapons handling, loading and mission employment to the Navy, Marine Corps and Naval Reserve units. Below, Miranda reflects on his years of service, lessons he has learned, and the impact of his Webb experience.
When did you first decide to enlist in the military?
My motivations for joining the military were initially tied to the attacks on 9/11. I was a junior in college when 9/11 occurred and it motivated me to serve my country. I had always considered military service, but 9/11 put me over the top. I applied for commission halfway through my senior year of college at UC San Diego. Although I had no aviation background, the idea of flying fighter jet aircraft on and off of Navy aircraft carriers seemed awesome. To this day, it has not disappointed me. I still get excited the way I did early on in anticipation of a flight.
What has been the most rewarding thing about your time in the Navy?
The most rewarding thing has been the experience of being accepted to attend and graduate from the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). This accomplishment required work, sacrifice — and was a huge honor. The course inspired me to become the best Naval Aviator I could be. While flying fighter aircraft for the Navy is a truly unique and exhilarating experience, it was TOPGUN that changed it from an experience to a profession.
Is there anything you’ve found particularly challenging?
The deployments and being away from home are always challenging — especially with a wife and children. We are typically gone for anywhere from eight to 10 months at a time. While on deployment, the missions we conduct are very rewarding, but come at the cost of time away from home. I missed my daughter’s birth when I was deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.
Are there any lessons you have learned during your time in service?
I think we continue to learn lessons and evolve over time. Most recently, I learned the importance of being a compassionate and empathetic leader. Being a leader requires you to make difficult choices that affect people’s lives. As a Commanding Officer in the military, people will typically comply with your orders. However, if you want to truly motivate those you lead and inspire them to believe in the mission, they have to believe in you as an individual.
Are there any military values that you carry with you?
Honor, courage and commitment are the pillars of the Navy ethos. I try to live my life professionally and personally with those values in mind.
Do you have any advice for Webb students who might be considering enlisting in the military?
My advice to students considering the military would be to start while you are young. Many aspects of a military career are easier to do when you are young and able to focus on yourself and your career development. The military is also typically a physical job, which is easier to do when you are younger.
I would also encourage Webb students to seek a commission as an officer, which requires a college degree, instead of enlisting right out of high school. While an enlisted career is a great option, Webb as a college prep school prepares students to eventually earn college degrees. That trajectory naturally lends itself to applying for direct entry into the military as an officer.
Do you feel like Webb prepared you for your time in the military at all, or had any influence on you choosing this path?
Absolutely, without a doubt. Arguably the most important preparation lies within the school motto: “Leaders, Not Common Men.” Webb teaches its students discipline and independence in addition to the academic rigors of its course curriculum. The experience uniquely offered at Webb — especially the leadership opportunities I had during my time at Webb — helped build my character and gave me the qualities to be a successful Naval Officer.
CDR Miranda and his wife Stephanie are proud parents to two children, Isabella and Sebastian. His decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Strike-Flight Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, as well as various unit, campaign, and service awards.
Some answers have been edited for clarity.