Michelle “Sonic” Ruehl is an Air Force Instructor Pilot with over 17 years of service. She flew four different aircraft and amassed over 2000 hours, including 807 combat hours in Afghanistan, providing real-time airborne targeting data to Special Operations forces. While in Afghanistan, she also volunteered to teach English to local school girls as well as a group of young Afghan men studying Business. For her service, she earned seven Air Medals, two Aerial Achievement Medals and a special award for volunteer work, the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
After her last deployment, Sonic returned to the U.S. Air Force Academy (class of ’03) to teach Rhetoric and Composition in the Department of English and Fine Arts. When she was not in the classroom, she was the theater director, equestrian team mentor and worked down at the airfield teaching cadets how to fly the T-53 in the Air Force Academy’s Powered Flight Program.
Sonic brings 15 years of rhetoric, communication, and debriefing skills to the Afterburner team. She earned her M.A. in Teaching Writing and Rhetoric from the University of Colorado and traveled to Ghana where she taught civic leaders how to develop community improvement plans. In Tanzania, she taught children how to write music. In Nepal, she taught English to Tibetan refugees at a Buddhist monastery. Additionally, at the request of the Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, she designed and taught a communication course to the Air Force headquarters staff at the Pentagon. Now, she is working on her Ph.D. in Writing and Rhetoric at George Mason University.
To honor fallen military colleagues, Sonic founded Parwana LEADership Legacy, a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide leadership camps to veterans and their families to enhance empathy, communication, and teamwork so youth can then use these concepts to lead others. Through these programs, Sonic uses her M.A. in Psychology, as well as her certification as an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL) to teach children, veterans, and survivors of trauma how to heal from their experiences and become empowered leaders in their community.
Sonic excels at helping teams become their best by aligning their communication processes with their strategic goals, so she was thrilled to join the Afterburner team in 2018!
In 2020, she moved to Washington D.C. to be a White House Fellow where she was a speech writer for the US Department of Transportation Secretary and the Vice President. She now lives in Arlington, VA with her husband, who flies for a major airline, and their two young children.
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