66 ABG IMA retires after 33 years of service

  • Published
  • By Capt. Adam Livermore
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Col. Julie P. Curlin, individual mobilization augmentee to the 66th Air Base Group commander, will retire here after 33 years of service to the U.S. Air Force.

Curlin has served on active duty, in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves, accruing eight deployments and racking up over 3,300 flight hours across four different aircraft.

She graduated from Boston University with a computer science degree and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps commission in 1990 and had two goals right away: become a pilot and deploy.

“When I got commissioned, new lieutenants didn’t come on active duty right away, so I bought a one-way ticket to California and got hired at Los Angeles Air Force Base working NAVSTAR GPS as a ROTC overhire,” she said. “It was exciting; there were only three Block II satellites operational at the time. Desert Shield was kicking off and we were shipping GPS hand-held receivers to the guys in theater in advance of Desert Storm.”

In 1991 Curlin began active duty, serving as a computer programmer and group executive officer, working on the AWACS at the 552nd Computer Group at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.  

Although Curlin enjoyed the AWACS mission, her real goal and passion was to become a pilot. 

After her four-year active-duty commitment and submitting a multitude of applications to guard and reserve units, her opportunity finally arrived. She was selected for a pilot slot with the Maryland Air National Guard and was immediately sent to pilot training.

Over the next two years, Curlin began her pilot training at Hondo Air Base in Texas with pilot screening in the T-3 Firefly; flight training at Columbus Air Base in Mississippi in the T-37 and T-38; C-130 training at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and finally survival, evasion, resistance and escape training at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington.

By the time she returned to the Maryland National Guard, she had attained her dream of becoming an Air Force pilot.

From 1997 to 2013 she flew the C-130E Hercules all over the world and conducted the test and evaluation and procedures development on the C-130J model before transitioning to the C-27J Spartan. Once that aircraft was divested from the Air Force, her unit was no longer flying, and took on a cyber mission. 

She knew she would need to find another unit.

“I just wanted to keep flying and there were opportunities up in Pennsylvania,” she said.

From 2013 to 2019 Curlin served in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and took on a slew of new roles such as chief of safety, the commander of the Air Operations Center and the Operations Group commander. She was also able to continue flying and requalified in the C-130J and EC-130J.

During this time, her husband, Air Force Col. William “Bill” Curlin, was serving on active duty, which resulted in frequent moves for the pair and their three children, Madison, Mitchell and Amelia.

Military service had been a family affair for Julie Curlin for a long time.

She was initially inspired to join after watching her father, who served on active duty for four years before joining the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, where we he went on to retire from a 30-year career as a brigadier general.

Curlin’s brother and two sisters also followed in their father’s footsteps by joining the Air Force and have all achieved field-grade officer ranks; and all four of their spouses are also military.

In 2019 Curlin had been in the Air Force for 29 years, with one year left to her mandatory separation date and once again faced a difficult decision. She made the transfer from the Air National Guard to the Air Force Reserves as an IMA at Scott AFB in Ohio, where she extended her contract for three more years. In 2020 she moved to Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts, as the IMA to the installation commander.

As her military career comes to an end, Curlin said the most rewarding aspect of her time in the Air Force has always been the people.

“I love working and helping people,” she said. “It’s important that you share your stories because it lets other people know there is a place for them too.”

During her retirement ceremony here May 19, Col. Taona Enriquez, 66 ABG and installation commander, spoke about Curlin’s character.

“Col. Julie Curlin is humble; she perseveres and has epic determination,” said Enriquez. “She is a true servant leader.”

Curlin reflected on the wingmen and leaders who helped, mentored and invested in her career, and gave her opportunities she may not have had elsewhere.  

“I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, where I've had to wear an abaya and I couldn't drive the vehicle. I've been to Bangladesh and Estonia where they've never seen a female pilot before and couldn't figure out why the loadmaster was asking permission from me. When you go all over the world and go into cultures where they don't expect to see females, it's amazing,” she said.

Curlin will officially retire June 1. Her retirement ceremony was held May 19, 33 years to the day she was commissioned and began her Air Force journey.

Her parting advice for someone just starting their Air Force career is: “There will always be opportunities for you,” she said. “If given a chance, take it.”