It might be surprising to hear her say it. Because Tammie Jo Shults has been rightly celebrated. A pioneering naval aviator. The pilot who guided Southwest Airlines flight 1380 back to solid ground after a catastrophic, mid flight engine failure. But Tammie Jo Shults will tell you clearly – who she really is has nothing to do with what she does, no matter how well she’s done it.
Tammie Jo takes us inside the journey she’s walked to get to that place – including the at times stunning resistance she faced in her military career simply because of her gender.
“I hit a number of walls, and some walls basically toppled on top of me. So I think I can speak to being discouraged but staying the course. This is what I did. I stepped back from the fray, and took inventory. What is my motive for being there versus what is their motive for opposing me? And may the most noble motive win! Then I looked at, what is my merit for being there? Do I have the skill set to be where I am? I’m not saying I had all the tools yet, but do I have the skill set? And – if I did – then I did have the merit to be there.”
“As a believer, I just had this wonderful support from the Lord that my merit, my worth, is not found in what I do in life. Who I am is given value by the Lord. So I didn’t leave that for other people to designate! My worth remained the same whether I was a pilot or not. Whether I did well on something or not.”
She adds further perspective with a key piece of advice her mom offered her early on her path.
“But when you’re frustrated – I will say – my mom really did a favor for me whenever she told me in junior high, ‘You cannot be a racehorse jockey! You’re 5 foot 7 and growing. You can lift the racehorse jockey up to the horse, but you’re just too big!'”
“Right there exists some truth for life. When scripture says the truth will set you free, it certainly means that in a deeper way than that, but I would say the idea that we can do anything in life is not true. That’s a good Hallmark card, but we do need to take stock of what our strengths are, and what’s our skill set.”
Tammie Jo Shults is an airline pilot and a former highly decorated, trailblazing naval aviator. Last spring, as the captain of Southwest Flight 1380, she successfully landed her aircraft after a catastrophic, mid-flight engine failure. Her new book tells her story. It’s called Nerves of Steel: How I Followed My Dreams, Earned My Wings & Faced My Greatest Challenge.