In 2014, Rick Mullen, 57, retired after 30 years of service in the military. He served as Squadron Commander in Afghanistan from March to October 2004. He is originally from Chicago and lived in Ireland for part of his life. He moved back to the United States to go to college and received his degree in journalism from the University of Colorado. He worked as an aviation journalist and later went into the military to fly.
Mullen and his wife Jenny bought their first house in Malibu in 1990. After living in Paradise Cove for a while, they moved to Ramirez Canyon. They have a 21-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter. They don’t own a television and spend most of their time outdoors as a family.
The Malibu Times sat down with the man who says he’s in Malibu because of his wife and that she embodies the spirit of Malibu.
What was your experience like in Afghanistan?
I was in Afghanistan in 2004. My role was Squadron Commander. There were 120 marines in my unit. We had six H-53 helicopters. It was a great experience. Nobody got killed or hurt. It was a good year in Afghanistan as well because they had their first successful elections. My time there was very interesting and rewarding from many different perspectives. The one thing that I took away was the ability to breach the cultural divide. I was stationed in Bagram. We got to see a lot of the countryside with the helicopters and it was absolutely beautiful.
You were part of the Ramirez Canyon Preservation Fund. How did you get into that and how did it turn out?
I used to live in Paradise Cove with my wife and I was president of the HOA. When I moved to Ramirez Canyon, the fund was already formed and they asked me to step forward and help out. It was a pivotal time. It wound up culminating in a lawsuit: The City of Malibu and the Ramirez Canyon Preservation Fund against the CCC and the Santa Monica Conservancy to state court. And we won on appeal. It pretty much allowed the city to be the approving authority for activities within state bounds in Malibu. I learned that it’s very important to get involved, to understand what’s at stake, to communicate with residents, and to be polite and courteous. Not many people take the CCC to court and win.
How long have you been a firefighter? What was the scariest or most memorable incident that you experience?
I’ve been a firefighter since 1999, so for 17 years now. The answer to that would definitely be the Corral Fire. We were there early in the morning. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I was at the threshold of the gates of Hades. We were right there looking at 50-foot flames. I’ve been assigned to three stations in Malibu and now I’m up at Station 72.
You’ve been married for many years. What marriage advice do you have for newlyweds?
Choose wisely. I was born when my father was 49 years old. My paradigm growing up was do whatever it is you want to do in life before you incur the significant responsibilities of marriage and children. Once you have children, that’s your primary responsibility. Don’t get married too young, you’re still developing and maturing. It’s important to get your own life in order first.
Tell us about how you got into flying helicopters.
I went into the military to fly. I started in 1985. I flew helicopters in service for more than 20 years. It’s a lot of fun. I used to own a little airplane as well and flew it. The last time I flew a helicopter was four years ago.
Do you have any regrets in life?
No, I’m happy the way things turned out. I’m very lucky for all the good things I have in my life, especially my wonderful wife, my great children and this beautiful town that I live in.
What is your favorite thing about Malibu? If you could change one thing about Malibu, what would it be and why?
The weather and the geography. I grew up in Chicago and the geography is not interesting at all over there. It’s flat ground. The geography, topography, weather and natural beauty in Malibu are phenomenal.
What I would change is that the mission and vision statement for Malibu should be required reading for everybody who lives here. I wish everyone would realize that what’s unique about Malibu is the natural beauty of the town and to preserve that beauty.
How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?
It was good and very interesting. I enjoyed my conversation with her. She’s very talented and I enjoyed learning about her background. I was forced to sit still and I loved it. Our conversation was great and she did a good job with the painting. I’m flattered that I would be asked and know that my tumbleweed days are over.