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A look back at a 940th Air Refueling Wing pioneer

Colonel Betty L. Mullis sits in the flight deck in the 1990s in Northern California.

Colonel Betty L. Mullis sits in the flight deck in the 1990s in Northern California. Mullis was the first female Air Force officer to command a flying wing. (Photo by The Sacramento Bee)

Maj. Gen. Betty L. Mullins smiles for her official photo.

Maj. Gen. Betty L. Mullins smiles for her official photo. Mullis was inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2006. (US Air Force official photo)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --

This first week of May, 25 years ago, Maj. Gen. (then colonel) Betty L. Mullis became the first female officer to command a flying wing by taking charge of the 940th Air Refueling Wing at McClellan Air Force Base, California.

Mullis graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 1970. She entered the Air Force in 1972 as a public affairs officer assigned to the 314th Air Refueling Wing. Within several years, Mullis joined the Arkansas National Guard and continued to serve in the public affairs field.

Her career took a turn after she qualified as a KC-135E pilot in the early 1980s. She flew in the 154th Air Refueling Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and later moved to the Air Force Reserve, 366th Air Refueling Squadron at March Air Force Base, California. By the early 1990s, she had worked her way up to becoming the chief pilot.

She had another historical achievement in November 1993. At the rank of lieutenant colonel, she became the first woman to command an air refueling unit by taking command of the 336th Air Refueling Squadron, a part of the 452nd Air Refueling Wing.  Two years later, she became the vice commander of the 452 ARW.

This pioneer in our history became the first female USAF officer to command a flying wing when she took reins of the 940th Air Refueling Wing at McClellan Air Force Base, California. Mullis led the wing for two years and oversaw the relocation of the wing and its assets to Beale Air Force Base, California, where it is based today.

On June 1, 2000, Mullis was promoted to brigadier general, then attained the rank of major two years later. She was the first female pilot to attain both of those ranks in the Air Force.

Mullis has had numerous accomplishments over the course of her career.

After serving as the commander, Mullis continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve.

She retired in 2005, after serving a total of 33 years, and was inducted into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2006.