Major General Joel Carey, B.A. ’92

Alumnus of the Year

Major General Joel Carey, B.A. ’92
Major General Joel Carey, B.A. ’92

Joel Carey knew he wanted to join the Air Force and fly since he was a young man. A career that would take him to the skies started at Baylor University. 

For Carey, Baylor was on his mind early on. Members of his family had attended Baylor, including his dad and uncle, and he grew up going to Baylor football games and Homecoming. 

“There’s a little bit of it in my blood, I guess you could say, and then the closer I came to choosing what I wanted to do after high school, it just had a lot of promise,” Carey said of his choice to attend Baylor. “It just seemed warm, and the values aligned with where I wanted to go and learn and develop… With Air Force ROTC, the ability to play football, the degree program and the options that they had for a high-quality education, it all lined up pretty well.”

Carey’s Baylor experience was characterized by involvement across campus life. He earned his B.A. in economics, was a member of the service fraternity, Kappa Omega Tau, played football under Coach Grant Teaff, and was in ROTC.

Upon graduation, Carey was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. After graduate school, he moved from his hometown of Midlothian, Texas, to Del Rio, Texas, at Laughlin Air Force Base and began pilot training. Carey got his wings once he finished training. He went to Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico for his first operational assignment flying F-111s.

It didn’t take long before Carey was on his first of many deployments. Carey has flown more than 3,200 hours in the F-15C/D, A-29, F-11, EF-111, MC-12W, C-208, and T-38C aircrafts, including more than 600 combat hours.

Shortly before Carey started his pilot training, he married his wife of nearly 30 years, Mendy. They have five children. 

“She’s as committed to the service as I am or, I would argue, a lot of those that are in uniform,” Carey claimed.

“Although I still love flying and loved flying,” Carey said, “I began to realize how much I really enjoyed the opportunity to work on hard problems, hard, meaningful problems, trying to make parts of the world better … That’s what kept us, my wife and I, in for as long as we have been.”

Major General Carey is now the director of operations, strategic deterrence, and nuclear integration of the United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, headquartered at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. 

The geographic scope of the Air Forces in Europe and Africa covers from the north of Norway and Sweden all the way down to the tip of South Africa, and from the middle of the Atlantic to the Eastern flank. 

Maj. Gen. Carey oversees the directorate staff and 603rd Air Operations Center, which prepare for, plan for and then conduct air operations in Europe and Africa.

“Anytime that you have the need to enhance stability or maybe contingency or emerging crises around the globe where we might have Americans or partners on the ground, you can be very confident that they’re going to need some type of air support, whether it’s airlift or maybe somebody to come to their help during a fight, and that’s the kind of thing that this headquarters, and particularly in my role as a director of operations, are involved with every day,” Carey said of his role. 

Carey was promoted from Brigadier General to Major General in June 2022. 

The role of the United States Air Force is expansive: including disaster relief, like after the earthquake in Turkey, and offering protection and support to soldiers, sailors, airmen or marines on the ground. 

“The list is hard to cover. On any given day air is bringing help just to provide peace and stability for parts around this globe. I’m incredibly proud to be part of it,” Carey said.

For Carey, being named the Baylor Alumnus of the Year is not about him alone, but the opportunities he’s been given and the teams he’s been a part of throughout his life. 

“Really, it’s a reflection, I consider, not of me,” Carey said, “but a reflection of the team that I’m a part of and that I’m able to represent being an airman in the United States Air Force and my family that’s been supporting along the way. It’s really recognition of them and their service and what they mean as much or more than it is an individual award.”