By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
Col. Nanette Brédé Mueller, USA (Ret), had three goals when she joined the Army: She wanted to lead, manage, and make a difference. She not only accomplished these goals during her 29-year Army career and as a military spouse, but also continues to do so in her personal and professional life.
Brédé Mueller, who served on MOAA’s board of directors from 2006-12, is chief executive officer, executive director, and co-founder of Prep Connect 360, a military-to-civilian career transition program in the Colorado Springs, Colo., area. Since its start in 2012, the weeklong program has had over 800 graduates. A cadre of nearly 50 volunteers, many of whom are graduates of the program, present topics on career assessments, interviewing, career goal development, social media, employer connections, networking, and more in a participative learning environment.
“Most of the volunteers bring with them a passion to help veterans in a particular area,” said Brédé Mueller.
She volunteers hundreds of hours annually to the program, making sure curriculum is prepared, participants have done their prework, and volunteers are lined up.
[RELATED: MOAA’s 2021 Career Transition Guide]
For Brédé Mueller, it’s the positive outcomes that she is most proud of. One program graduate, a female Air Force major, stood up a construction company. “She had a medical background, but she reached back and used her dad’s passion for construction, and that cued her into being in construction herself,” said Brédé Mueller. “You never know what background or conversation will lead you to that next step or career.”
Unexpected turns were a part of Brédé Mueller’s military career. She had a degree in broadcasting when she commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1981. The Army put her in munitions management. “My early career was a textbook example of an ammunitions officer,” she said. In her first job in the Army, she was responsible for U.S. Army-Europe’s largest ammunition supply point, with over $8 billion of inventory, and she subsequently commanded a 210-person ammunition company.
She continued to rise through the ranks, serving as executive officer at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant in Desoto, Kan., and as secretary of the general staff and operations officer at the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Following those assignments, she went into the Army Reserve and was focused on corps-level logistics.
She eventually ended up on the NORAD staff, where she was when the Sept. 11 terrorist attack occurred.
“I worked in the Air Warning Center, and the general looked around one day and said, ‘You’re Army (most others were Air Force). I want you to run a project … designing another weapon system.’ ”
She became program manager in charge of designing, developing, and deploying the National Capital Region Integrated Air and Missile Defense Weapon System. With one week’s notice, she orchestrated the relocation of the initial system from Texas, where it was being tested, to Washington, D.C., in time for the Presidential State of the Union Address. The system remains operational and on alert to this day, protecting the nation’s capital from aerial attack.
“It was the highlight of my career — to be in charge of project that makes a significant impact and a long-lasting tangible difference for the nation’s security,” she said. “I was so fortunate … I was a staff officer for the preponderance of my career.”
Brédé Mueller’s final assignment before retiring from the Army in 2010 was as the joint test director of Joint Air Defense Operations-Homeland for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Her own military-to-civilian-transition experience led her into transition assistance.
“I went through TAP [the Transition Assistance Program] three times,” she said. “I kept wanting to find when it would be about me and helping me find what I was going to do in the next phase of my life.”
She ended up shadowing a transition assistance expert and then developing the Prep Connect 360 program in 2012.
Her dedication to the program, coupled with her involvement with nearly 10 other veteran-focused organizations, including the Pikes Peak Chapter of MOAA of which she is past president, resulted in Brédé Mueller being named 2020 El Paso County Veteran of the Year.
“I was absolutely thrilled,” she said of the honor. “It’s great to continue to make a difference, and I think that is reflected in my passion from when I first started in the military. That has continued because I’m a firm believer that this generation of veterans doesn’t deserve to be sitting on the curb with their hand out. They need the tools to succeed, and I want to help provide them.”
Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.