After graduating from MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kan., in 1983, Shults joined the U.S. Navy in 1985. She was one of the first female fighter pilots in the Navy, which didn’t allow women to fly in combat until a few months after Shults left active duty, in 1993. But she participated in training missions during Operation Desert Storm, acting as an aggressor enemy pilot.
After successfully landing her damaged plane and helping to calm frightened passengers, Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults texted a longtime friend: “God is good.” Passengers hailed the 56-year-old for her “nerves of steel,” but friends who go to church with Shults said they weren’t surprised. “Everybody is talking about Tammie Jo and how cool and calm she was in a crisis, and that’s just Tammie Jo,” Rachel Russo said. “That’s how she’s wired.” Shults and her husband, Dean, also a Southwest pilot, live in Boerne, Texas, about 30 miles northwest of San Antonio.