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All in the family: Three sisters follow parents in AF service

Oct. 6, 2013 - 10:37AM   |  
Kathleen, Dorothy and Dawn
Kathleen, Dorothy and Dawn (Photos courtesy of Don Mullan)
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Kathleen and Don Mullan in 1973. (Courtesy Don Mullan)
Far left, from the left, Dawn, Michael and Kathleen (Courtesy Don Mullan)

The Mullans are a big Air Force family: Don Mullan retired as a master sergeant after serving 22 years. His wife, Kathleen, served four years as a dental technician. Now, their three daughters are creating their own Air Force legacy.

On top of that, “both Kathleen and I had fathers who served in World War II,” Don Mullan said.

Don chose the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He met Kathleen at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and they married in 1971. With Don traveling to more than 13 bases during his career, the family got a taste of military duty.

“I was an air traffic controller for most of my career, and we traveled around an awful lot,” Don said from Florence, Ala., where he and Kathleen now live.

“We were an Air Force family, and [the girls] knew that life,” Kathleen said.

The oldest daughter, Technical Sgt. Dawn Strickland, 673d Medical Operations Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is a health services management craftsman and has served 16 years.

Technical Sgt. Kathleen Kar, 432nd Wing, Creech Air Force Base, Nev., is an intelligence analyst working as a special duty unit deployment manager and has served 14 years.

The youngest, Senior Airman Dorothy Mullan, 73rd Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., is a special mission aviator and has served five years.

The Mullans also have a son, Michael, who served in the Army for four years.

“I always call my son the black sheep because he went Army,” Don said.

“We poke fun at him, but it’s all in good fun,” Kar said.

Dorothy Mullan said she knew the military was an option for her because of her family.

“While the military structure has changed over the years, especially when I hear stories from my father and mother, I think the opportunity is the same,” Dorothy said.

“I went in for educational benefits initially, but so far, the military has made my life extremely exciting,” Kar said.

Both Kathleen Kar and Dorothy are pursuing degrees — Kar, a master’s in intelligence; and Dorothy, a bachelor’s in business science management.

Older daughters Dawn and Kathleen focus on their families, Don said, while Dorothy is still learning the trick of the trade.

“My older sister and I have more in common because we are the same rank, so we have the ability to relate our Air Force experiences,” Kar said. “Dorothy is going through what we’ve already gone through. ... We share our direction and experiences, but she needs to experience it for herself to learn from it.”

It’s not always easy for the family to get together, but Kar said they each have memories of good family times.

“One year on Christmas Eve, my dad had the night shift at Seymour Johnson [Air Force Base, N.C.] and my mom took my brother, sister and I to the radio tower that night,” Kar said. She was the youngest then.

Kar said her dad radioed the pilot flying overhead to turn on all his lights. They could also see him on the radar. “My mom and dad told us it was Santa Claus,” she said. “I thought my dad was the coolest in the world because he could track Santa Claus. ... He was my hero that year.”

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