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By Gina Baltrusch, Aviation and Missile Command Public Affairs, August 14, 2019

An Aviation and Missile Command operations officer will continue studies toward a doctoral degree with the help of a $4,000 academic scholarship award she received Aug. 6 during the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville.

Capt. Maria Miranda applied for and won the 2019 Lt. Gen. Larry Dodgen Memorial University Scholarship, a program administered by the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association.

Miranda is a Reserve logistics officer serving a three-year assignment in AMCOM’s Operations Directorate. She plans to use the scholarship to continue her doctoral degree in public health at Walden University.

Miranda emigrated from Nicaragua to the United States with her parents in 1988 when she was 10. She became a U.S. citizen in 2005 while serving as an enlisted Soldier, then attended Officer Candidate School to become a Reserve officer in 2009. She holds a bachelor’s in physical education and health promotion, and a master of exercise science and rehabilitation. Miranda’s pursuit of a doctoral degree in public health puts her on a path toward supporting community health services and influencing positive social change in individuals’ health-related choices.

In her current assignment, Miranda processes all of the taskers that come into AMCOM – about 400-plus taskers every month. Across the Army, higher-echelon commands send numerous taskers to subordinate units for appropriate action. Taskers often have complex requirements, and need personnel, materials or equipment in order to complete.

“Many people don’t realize the time and attention to detail it takes to work just one of those taskers. Capt. Miranda analyzes them, determines which organization is best suited to receive the tasker, assigns it, makes sure the receiving unit understands the requirements, and tracks its completion – hundreds of them,” Col. Terry Grisham, AMCOM’s deputy director for Current Operations, said. “Managing taskers is a necessary, yet typically thankless job, which few people truly enjoy. Capt. Miranda took it on and made it her own, contributing to processes and policies that improved tasker coordination and accuracy among our units and departments.”

Having a team member who quickly and correctly evaluates, assigns and tracks incoming and outgoing taskers is critical to efficient and effective staff operations, according to Maj. Ryan Greenawalt, Miranda’s supervisor. “Her analytical judgment, time-management skills and work ethic are impeccable.

“And she’s one of the most-kind people I’ve ever met,” Greenawalt added. “She genuinely cares and wants to make a positive difference for people.”

Education, healthy living, public service and the pursuit of personal excellence seem to be a way of life for Miranda, who is a wife and mother, as well as a student.

“Sometimes, it’s a lot to manage. But, once I start something, I never quit,” she said. “No matter how long it takes me to complete the program, I will finish it.”

Miranda’s leadership and management skills as an Army officer complement her non-military education and career goals.

“(Skills) such as overseeing public health operations and programs, analyzing and advising on findings, and implementing strategies and plans to improve community health,” Miranda said. “The public health doctoral program will propel me to do that and more.”

Her goal to make a positive difference for individual and community public health are driven by her commitment to family, public service and an abundance of gratitude for her good fortune.

“I’ve been so blessed. I just want to give back some of the good I’ve had in my life,” Miranda said. “I also want to set a good example for my daughter. It’s important to contribute and help make our communities better.”

Miranda puts those words into action during her off-duty time in the Huntsville area. She volunteers with the Health Ministry Team at her church, with children at the Chaney Thompson Montessori School, and with Team Red White Blue at Redstone Arsenal, which provides life enrichment to veterans through health, physical and social activity.

Miranda’s colleagues say her passion for public health and commitment to excellence generate positive effects in their work and personal lives.

“My family was considering a no-sugar diet. Knowing Capt. Miranda’s extensive education in public health, I asked her about it,” Grisham said. “The recommendations she provided made sense, and were less extreme and easier to achieve the results we ultimately wanted.

“We’re proud to have Capt. Miranda here in operations. She’s not just an outstanding officer, tasker manager, mentor and teammate – she’s a good person. I have no doubt she’s going to keep doing great things to help others with her public health degree.”

The Lt. Gen. Larry Dodgen scholarship annually awards one $4,000 educational scholarship to a deserving Soldier or military family member. During his 1972-2006 Army career, Dodgen’s assignments included commanding the Aviation and Missile Command and the Space and Missile Defense Command.