Cinematographer Conrad Hall’s quote “You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward,” applies to Joshua McMillian, Chief of Public Safety at Arkansas Tech University (ATU), in Russellville. Josh, as most call him, has been described in many stories of service, as easygoing, reliable, amiable, special and safe.
Josh grew up in Louisiana with hopes of being an architect. He was young and wasn’t familiar with what to look for in a career. His college advisor put him in a mechanical engineering program, during which he attended a job fair and realized those jobs didn’t appeal to him. This prompted a change in studies to sociology, in which he earned an undergraduate degree from Louisiana Tech University. He then moved to Texas for a job as a youth pastor and to explore seminary at Southern Methodist University.
Just nine hours short of a graduate degree in religious education, one would think Josh would seek employment in theology. Instead, he became a patrol officer in Arkansas. The move started with friends in Arkansas suggesting he work in construction. “I was trying to figure it all out. You’re just going from one thing to the next. I’ve been lucky to have landed in some good spots,” said Josh about moving from one place to another. After watching people get hurt and not have medical benefits, he and his friends decided he needed a job with insurance. One friend brought up law enforcement, knowing Josh’s martial arts involvement, leading him to becoming an officer in Dardanelle.
After Dardanelle, Josh moved across the Arkansas River to the Russellville Police Department. There he became part of the patrol division, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and became the department’s public information officer. In addition, he has worked with the Russellville Police Academy, the Russellville Police Youth Academy and has been a police liaison for nonprofit organization boards. In 2012, Josh became the Chief of Public Safety at ATU, where he has expanded the unit and its services.
Along with day-to-day law enforcement service, becoming a certified instructor of Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) through Texas State University, and pursuing a Master of Science degree in Emergency Management and Homeland Security at Arkansas Tech University, have solidified Josh as the go-to person for security training. Labeling himself as an eternal student, his continued education lends itself to making him a better instructor. Having taught conceal carry classes and wanted to offer a better course based on changes in the law, Josh began his consulting and training business, SRTS, Inc., which has made him well-known in the industry, far beyond Russellville.
Dr. David Hopkins, superintendent of Clarksville Schools, was serving on the 2018 Arkansas School Safety Commission when he first heard about Josh’s security work with area agencies and schools. He contacted Josh to discuss standardized training for Clarksville School staff who had volunteered to be commissioned school security officers (CSSO). Dr. Hopkins said Josh is “a fantastic person.” His method of beginning with the basics and then consistently building and honing the knowledge and skills of the multiple CSSOs is key to the program’s success. The team has staggered trainings throughout the year. The subjects vary from active shooter training to law enforcement synchronizing.
Josh was led to the school staff-volunteer training through his need to pass his lessons along and protect. “I do it to keep the kids safe. Every time you hear about school shootings, you know that [trained] people are doing their best to not let it happen here. It’s rewarding to know that there are volunteers, and I’ll help them any way I can.”
One of the constants in Josh’s life, is martial arts. He competed in fencing in high school, then moved on to Judo and Aikido. He earned advanced belts in both, and later owned a martial arts dojo in Russellville. Currently, Josh is a student and instructor at Forca Martial Arts & Fitness. Forca owner Brian Wilson says, “it takes a special person to go through the process” of going from one specialized discipline to another. Josh has been learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and will receive a black belt in 2023. In addition, he teaches the 5:30 a.m. Jiu Jitsu Fundamentals and Project Warrior classes.
The Project Warrior classes are a labor of love for military and law enforcement veterans. Consistent training builds the ability to use techniques correctly to stop excessive force, and a better-trained officer keeps himself and the community safe. Teaching veterans lends to the betterment of their well-being, as he says they destress when around like-minded individuals. “I’m so happy that Brain and Cora let me do this service,” Josh said.
A man of faith and commitment, he says he has a servant’s heart and that is evident by the life he has been leading. Amanda and Josh have been married for sixteen years. and have three children: Mallory, Jacob and James. Josh teaches pre-k and kindergarten AWANAS (a Christian youth program) at his church, plus he serves on the First Baptist Security Team and as the security advisor to Valley Christian School in Russellville.
Amanda is a stay-at-home mom and runs the household. She is the coordinator, Josh says. Josh, Amanda and the kids are a team. The family is involved in most of his activities, together, so they are used to the busy schedule. The family attitude is that, “nothing is impossible!”
Continuing his learning and teaching pattern, Josh has now added Scouts BSA den leader and assistant scoutmaster to his list of skills. Scoutmaster Robert Latus, Russellville Pack and Troop 182, welcomed Josh when his son and daughter joined scouting. Since then, the McMillian family committed to the wilderness tradition with daughter Mallory recruiting other girls, and dad Josh leading the first girls’ troupe in the council to win the annual Scouts BSA Camporee. Josh has become a certified range master for scouting BB and archery on scouting ranges, and certifications for wilderness and aquatic training. He wants children to enjoy learning and participating in the entire outdoor experience. Regarding the difference in teaching youth compared to adults, Josh said, “being a good instructor is just changing the delivery style of the information to your audience.”
“If other people succeed, I succeed,” said Josh when asked about his tendency for lifelong learning and sharing. While he may not hold the degree of an Architect, he’s been a social architect, building throughout his years.