Carol Anne Timmons

When Col. Carol Timmons was promoted in 2011 to brigadier general, she also  became the first female
general officer in the history of the Delaware National Guard.

Timmons  is director of the Guard's joint staff and a resident of Rehoboth Beach. She has 34 years of
military service, is a command pilot, has been deployed to multiple combat zones and has commanded
U.S. forces overseas, according to the Guard. Timmons joined the Guard in 1977 after graduating from
William Penn High School in New Castle.

Carol Anne Timmons is the perfect model for young women who want a dream fulfilled. Since
childhood, she wanted to fly jets. Following graduation from New Castle's William Penn High in 1976,
she enlisted in the Delaware Air National Guard (DANG). But the military wasn't sure women should
fly in combat, so she switched to the Delaware Army National Guard to fly helicopters.

Meanwhile, she earned a B.A. in aviation management at Wilmington College. Determined to fly jets,
Lt. Timmons transferred to the Air Force Reserve where she could fly non-combat missions on C-141
transports. During "Desert Storm" (1990-1991) then-Capt. Timmons flew in combat support operations
in and out of Southwest Asia.

When the Air Force allowed women to fly combat, Timmons returned to DANG and began flying C-
130s. The unit's first female pilot, she flew in support of Bosnia, Kosovo and other global operations. In
2003 her unit was activated for "Operation Iraqi Freedom." She flew as an aircraft commander,
accumulating more than 400 hours of combat time, including service as a squadron commander
responsible for 14 C-130s, 28 crews and some 200 ground personnel.

New Commander of Air Guard Ops…
In November 2005, after 32 months of activation, Lt. Col. Timmons returned to her civilian job as a
first officer flying jets for United Airlines. In April this year, she was promoted to full colonel and
appointed commander of DANG's 166th operations group.

During 30 years in the military, Timmons hurdled every gender-based obstacle confronted. "The
successful service of female aircrew members has disproved the myth that women could not perform in
the combat mission arena," she says. The New Castle native, now a Rehoboth Beach resident, has
flown 5,000 military hours and 9,000 civilian hours.

Delaware Air National Guard piloting a historic course

Written by


The News Journal

3:10 AM, May. 15, 2011

It takes more time these days to get into
New Castle Airport, where Carol Timmons became Delaware
Air National Guard's first female general Saturday.

The reason? Tightened security since Osama bin Laden's death.

It's not the first time bin Laden impacted Timmons' life. On 9/11, Timmons was co-pilot of a United
Airlines plane that many said was to be the fifth seized by hijackers.

Two years later, in 2003, Timmons led a Delaware Air National Guard deployment to Saudi Arabia and
flew combat missions in the Iraq War, as America opened a decade-long attempt to settle the score for

In 2008, Timmons earned a Bronze Star while commanding a combat deployment to Afghanistan.
Now, the 53-year-old who lives just north of Rehoboth Beach will be in charge of Guard troops from
Delaware who could be called to fight Islamic terrorists across the globe.

At Timmons' promotion ceremony Saturday, as much time was spent talking about her gender as her
decorated career. She's OK with that.

"It's not what I lead with, and it's not why I'm here today," Timmons said. "But it is important. Those
barriers were there and they took decades to be removed. Isn't it great that there are 20-year-old women
here who don't know any better?"

Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, Delaware National Guard's adjutant general, said Timmons' promotion is

"She's a trendsetter, a role model and certainly a champion of change," Vavala said. "Many more will
follow Carol in the name of equality, fairness and opportunity in our institution. We have all won,
and, more importantly, we have made a statement about the future of the Delaware Air National

In a vast hangar with a huge American flag as a backdrop, Timmons had her "pinning on" ceremony,
during which her colonel's eagles were removed and her general's stars were put on. She briefly held
the one-star general's flag that was unveiled.

Timmons did her best to deflect the praise directed at her during the one-hour event.

"The word 'first' has been thrown around quite a bit today," she said. " 'First' to me means just timing
and tenacity."

Not an obvious choice
Even though her dad was a sailor, Timmons knew she wanted to be a pilot since she was a little girl in
New Castle County. "If you talk to my mom, she'll tell you that I told her I wanted to be a pilot when I
was 5," Timmons said. "Nobody knew where it came from."

It was that desire to fly -- and her refusal to accept gender barriers -- that drove her decorated military
career. Timmons took an unusually long and complicated path to her general's star, starting out with
a single enlisted airman's stripe in the Delaware Air National Guard in early 1977 after graduating from
William Penn High School in New Castle the previous year.

Her crossover from enlisted to commissioned officer ranks alone would have made her military years

Military flying, Timmons acknowledged, "was not a career that was obvious for women," in the 1970s,
"so I kind of got misdirected" into criminal justice training at Delaware Technical & Community
College, another nontraditional avenue for women at the time.

But classmates at William Penn saw few signs of Timmons' warrior side.

Phil Simpkins of New Castle, a former attorney who graduated with Timmons, recalled her as "one of
the quiet types," playing on the softball team throughout high school and participating in Leader
Corps activities. Her "Senior Will" entry in the Class of '76 yearbook read simply: "I, Carol Timmons,
leave my shyness and quietness to Brenda B. and Betsy K."

At Delaware Tech, a classmate who already was in the Guard suggested that part-time military work
would be fun and rewarding. After an eye-opening ride on the flight deck of a C-130 during her first
deployment as a security force member, Timmons was hooked on the idea of piloting.

"My parents had a 'deer in the headlights' kind of look," recalled Timmons, who now lives in a quiet
section of the Breakwater Estates community. "They were very supportive and said, 'OK, if this is what
you want to do, if you want to fly ... " The Guard wasn't so sure.

'Follow the dream'
The military of the time barred women from flying C-130s because of the big plane's combat role. So
Timmons jumped from Delaware's Air Guard to the Army National Guard, where she won an officer's
commission in 1980 and training that allowed her to begin flying the venerable and ubiquitous UH-1
"Huey" helicopter in 1981.

Three years later, though, the Army moved to pull women out of their Hueys because of the combat
restriction. Timmons launched herself into the Air Force Reserve and trained to pilot C-141 jet
transports, flying out of McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

By 1990, Timmons was flying C-141 missions in support of Operation Desert Storm and, later, Desert
Shield. A few months later, she would circle back to the Delaware Air Guard, where she finally got a
seat at the controls of the C-130.

"I tell people: 'If you have a dream, do what you have to do to follow the dream,' " Timmons said. "If
someone tells you, 'No,' then look for another road. How many doors were shut in my face by people
saying, 'No, you can't fly because you're a female.' "

Although military flight proved to be personally rewarding, Timmons said, part-time, reserve-duty pay
limits were a concern. She began flying on her civilian time for Pan Am in the mid-1980s, before its
bankruptcy, then joined United Airlines in the early 1990s after rejoining the Delaware Air National
Guard and learning to fly the C-130.

In recent years, Timmons has moved into higher-ranking roles, with less time to fly and more time to
lead and manage. Her latest duty is as director of joint staff officers, an Army and Air Force
coordination job that she described as "the best job."

Her achievements got noticed over the years, earning her a place in the Delaware Women's Hall of
Fame in 2004 and induction into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007. Over the years, she
logged 5,000 hours in the air in various military aircraft -- including 400 hours while carrying out
more than than 100 combat flying missions -- and 8,000 hours at the controls of commercial passenger

"I miss flying and I miss the operations side of the house, but eventually you promote yourself out of
that and you have to move on and let the youngsters take over."

Gov. Jack Markell told the audience at Timmons' promotion ceremony that she was a role model for all
girls and young women in Delaware.

"Another glass ceiling has shattered," Markell said.

9/11 experience
Timmons recounted her 9/11 experience last week.

Early that morning, Timmons was flying as first officer for United Airlines Flight 23 out of John F.
Kennedy Airport, after enjoying the morning view on the drive over the narrows of New York Bay.
She was helping to taxi the wide-bodied Boeing 767 jet bound for Los Angeles when the airport was
abruptly shut down.

Air traffic controllers and United Airlines internal messages spoke of hijackings, imminent threats.
While the government never has made a full public report, aviation expert Lynn Spencer dedicated
several pages to Flight 23 in her book, "Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That
Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11."

After a United dispatcher ordered crews, "Do not open cockpit doors, secure the cockpit," pilot Tom
Mannello "was shocked, instinctively reaching down to grab the crash ax while handing the heavy fire
extinguisher to Timmons. Timmons jumped out of her seat and started barricading the cockpit door
with their suitcases," Spencer wrote.

Timmons confirmed the account last week, recalling that "I just went into action. I was up out of the
seat, doing stuff, while the captain was holding down the fort."

Moments later, Spencer said, attendants on Flight 23 relayed from the other side of the barricade that
they were concerned about "four young Arab men sitting in first class."

The New York Times would later report that the FBI investigated a report that the four men on Flight
23 became "agitated" when the trip was canceled, "urgently consulted" with one another and refused
orders from flight attendants, then "bolted" from the plane when it returned to the terminal. Al-Qaida
documents and box cutters were found later in their unclaimed baggage, Spencer wrote.

Timmons confirmed being questioned about the incident by the FBI, one of what Spencer described as
"half a dozen" federal questionings of the Flight 23 crew. The findings, Timmons said, were never
shared, although Mannello was quoted as concluding that the fuel-laden, transcontinental Flight 23
"would have been next" had the airport shutdown order been delayed.

"The FBI asks questions," Timmons said. "They don't tell you things."

Wartime duty
In 2003, Timmons led a Delaware Air National Guard deployment to Saudi Arabia and a combat role in
the Iraq War.

"We landed in the middle of nowhere in Saudi Arabia," Timmons recalled. "The people who landed in
front of me built my tent, I built other people's tent. We built a camp out of nothing. Then the war
started; we started flying low-level missions into Iraq. Here I am, finally, after decades of being told that
I'm not going to fly combat, sitting in the left seat of a plane on a combat mission."
Timmons expressed sadness and regret at the losses of American and Iraqi lives during the fighting but
described her wartime duty as "an awesome, unbelievable experience."

Five years later, while commanding a combat deployment to Afghanistan, Timmons earned a Bronze
Star for directing 700 troops through months of close air support, air drops, search and rescue and
medical evacuations across that war-torn country, and for her work to improve air drop practices in
the region. The 6,700 missions carried out under her command in 2008, the award noted, handled
millions of pounds of cargo and munitions, thousands of passengers and hundreds of medical patients.

Remembering roots
Nearly 500 people attended Timmons' promotion. During her remarks, she stayed true to her
reputation as a down-to-earth person and an officer who never forgot her roots as an enlistee.
When thanking the retired Guard members for attending, she said, "Make sure you give me a hug
before you leave, OK?"

She also made sure that the new Guard members who are still in training felt like the most important
people in the room. About 20 of them, wearing T-shirts and standing along the rear wall, far from the
ceremony's stage, were given a standing ovation by the crowd at Timmons' direction.

Five of the new members -- about 25 percent -- were young women.

After the ceremony, at least half the crowd stood in line to greet Timmons. She knew more names than
not and offered back-slapping hugs and a personal comment about their connection to her to nearly

It was all signature Timmons, Vavala said.

"That's what Carol is all about," he said. "She never forgot where she came from once she became an
officer. That's a great quality in a leader."
Delaware Military History