Alumna Carol Timmons became Delaware’s first female Adjutant General this year.
Sure, it took Carol Timmons seven years (2006–13) to earn her master’s degree from Wilmington University. But she has a pretty good excuse: She had to fight a war in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star in the process. Brig. Gen. Timmons interrupted her studies in 2008 to command a combat unit as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Her service in Afghanistan is just one of the many achievements in her 39 years in the Delaware National Guard that prompted newly-elected Gov. John Carney to name her Delaware’s first female Adjutant General in January. Timmons, who had served as assistant Adjutant General since 2012, succeeds Lt. Gen. Frank Vavala, who retired on Jan. 31, after nearly 50 years of service.
In making the Cabinet appointment, Carney said, “Gen. Timmons is respected in Delaware and across the country for her service, and she is prepared to lead the Delaware National Guard on day one. She is the right person to take on the vitally important tasks of leading our Guardsmen, and making the right decisions for the future of the Delaware National Guard.”
Born in Texas but raised in New Castle, Delaware, Timmons graduated from William Penn High School and immediately began her career as a citizen-soldier. She enrolled at Delaware Technical Community College in the Criminal Justice program. Her schooling was interrupted for Air Force Basic Training in Lackland, Texas, and she received her Del Tech degree in 1979 and her second lieutenant’s bar one year later.
She enrolled in the Aviation Management program at what was then Wilmington College in 1982, receiving her degree in 1984.
In the meantime, she started her civilian career as a commercial airline pilot, and today she is a first officer with United, piloting B-767s and 757s, with more than 10,000 hours of flying time.
Her military career has been a continual ascent up the ranks. She was promoted to brigadier general in 2011. Besides the Bronze Star, which is one of the highest honors the military can bestow, she has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (with a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster), the Air Medal (with four Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), the Aerial Achievement Medal (with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.
She was inducted into the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007.
Timmons is authorized to fly the C-130, the huge transport aircraft that fly out of the New Castle Airport, as well as the UH-1 helicopter, known as the “Huey.”
She says she had always emphasized the importance of education to those under her command, and, through WilmU, she has followed her own advice. She returned to the University in 2006 to enroll in the master’s program in Management, Public Administration. The Afghanistan deployment and a family illness took more than 18 months out of her pursuit of that degree, but she calls it a great experience, one made easier by a culture that caters to the working person.
“As an airline pilot, it’s tough to do classes during the week,” says Timmons, “but I was able to take weekend courses at Dover Air Force Base. And the faculty was tremendous and so supportive when I had to take time off. They work with you. And the instructors are people from the field who have experienced it.”
She says she also appreciated the diversity of the classmates. “They were people from many different backgrounds and it was fascinating to get to know them.”
Timmons is excited about her new duties as Adjutant General. To make time for the job, she has asked for and received a leave of absence from United.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’ve got a great team to work with,” she says. “I never planned for it, but it’s a great honor for Gov. Carney to select me.”
She says there have been about a dozen female Adjutant Generals in various states over the years, and currently there are four: in the Virgin Islands, Alaska, Maryland and, of course, Delaware. WU