By Donna Parker
Ifyou need to speak with Lt. Jeff Mueller ’00, you’ll have to wait until his F/A-18D Hornet lands at Miramar Base in San Diego. This busy Marine officer, in addition to his flight duties, just finished a seven-month community outreach project in the Al Anbar province in Western Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The experience I gleaned during my time at Trinity proved to be invaluable throughout my training in flight school and while flying combat missions in Iraq. Trinity does a great job of teaching students two crucial life skills: prioritizing responsibility and time management, both of which are integral aspects of being successful, no matter your endeavor,” says Jeff, who extends special credit to his tennis mentor, Coach Butch Newman, department of athletics.
“He is an amazing person who set my life on the right course. As a former Marine officer himself, he truly embodies the principles of honor, courage, and commitment.”
Jeff, who won the 2000 NCAA Men’s tennis championship his senior year, says Coach Newman enabled his players to find their full potential, both on and off the court.
“Part of what made winning the National Championship so rewarding was that Coach Newman could finally see the results of his hard work and motivation.”
Not everything went that smoothly for Jeff, though, who recalls laughingly, “I hosted the show, Trinity Today, for a semester and I was awful. I mean embarrassingly awful!”
Jeff stays in touch with many Trinity friends and colleagues, especially those with whom he worked as assistant athletic director under Director Bob King.
“The coaches and staff were a huge support system to me while I was stationed in Iraq.”
Jeff had the amazing opportunity there to provide close air support for Marines and other soldiers on the ground in Iraq.
“The moments when their lives depended on it were as amazing as they were surreal, and I am proud to have been there serving my country.”
Not bad for someone who believed his life goal was to become an athletic director! Life changed dramatically in 2001.
“The day after Sept. 11, I joined the Marine Corps. The decision to become a Marine Corps officer was a significant turning point in my life, and one of the best decisions I have ever made. Many people told me I was making the biggest mistake of my life when I left Trinity to serve in the military. The decision to join the Marines was not difficult, because I knew in my gut it was the right one.”
Another right choice, he says, was his decision to marry “the most amazing woman he’s ever met,” who was a Trinity soccer player, but his mind is never far from his life’s mission.
“I am most proud of serving my country and flying combat missions in Iraq. One mission in particular occurred at night where I rolled inverted and pulled down into a fire fight in the city of Ramadi after a convoy hit a bomb. No one understood who was shooting, where it was coming from, or what was happening. The radios were a flood of confusion. The purpose of the low pass was to make as much noise as possible so the convoy could break contact with the enemy. I was in the right place at the right time and thankful for the opportunity. The shooting ended immediately upon pulling up. That was my proudest moment in Iraq.”