Mississippi ATAG retires after 38 years of service

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sabrina Dalton, Chief of Public Affairs, 186th Air Refueling Wing
  • 186th Air Refueling Wing

National, state and local leaders along with Airmen and Soldiers from around the state gathered at the 186th Air Refueling Wing in Meridian, Mississippi, to take part in a retirement ceremony for a revered Mississippi Air National Guard leader, March 6, 2022.

Maj. Gen. Billy M. Nabors, the Assistant Adjutant General (ATAG) and Commander, Mississippi Air National Guard officially retired after 38 years of honorable service to our state and nation. His tenure at the Mississippi National Guard, Joint Force Headquarters (JFH) began in 2017, where he served as the Chief of Staff before being selected as the ATAG in 2018.

Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, the Adjutant General of Mississippi, hosted the ceremony and thanked Maj. Gen. Nabors for his leadership and friendship.

“It was a pleasure working with Mike all these years,” said Boyles. “He’s a very proud father, proud grandfather and wonderful product of his parents. He absolutely made a difference while balancing his family with his profession.”

Maj. Gen. Boyles also thanked Nabors’ family for sharing him with the Mississippi National Guard.

“He was the right decision for the Mississippi National Guard,” detailed Boyles. “Not only did I seek his counsel for Air Force decisions, Mike and I as a team made decisions together involving both the Army and Air Force. That’s reflected in the COVID response.  We put everyone on the same team. We had blue and green working side-by-side, testing, delivering shots and working with the state of Mississippi’s resources to deliver what needed to be delivered. Mike was such a valuable part of bringing the talent from the Air Force to that solution set.”

Nabors joined the military in 1983 and did so for the same reason that others have chosen to serve. During that time, there was a resurgence of patriotism in the country following Vietnam. The military was building back up and Ronald Reagan was president.  These events instilled a feeling of patriotism in Nabors, causing him to switch gears from a potential medical career to deciding to join the military.

“I decided I’d rather seek out an opportunity to fly an airplane for the military,” said Nabors.  “That’s what led me down that original path in August of 1983 to walk into a recruiting station and say, ‘What do I need to do to fly an airplane for the U.S. Air Force?’”

Nabors spent his first eight years on active duty, stationed at Columbus Air Force Base where he served as a T-37 primary jet trainer instructor pilot and later as a KC-135A/R  aircraft pilot and commander. 

In 1992, Maj. Gen. Nabors transferred from active duty to the Mississippi Air National Guard as a KC-135 (tanker) instructor pilot at the 186th Air Refueling Wing. This is when the wing converted to the aerial refueling mission from the tactical reconnaissance mission.

When Key Field received their first tanker aircraft, Nabors was hired to be one of the cadre instructor evaluator pilots around the same time that Chief Master Sgt. Blake Stanley, with the 186th Operations Group, was trained as a boom operator on the new airframe.

“I flew with him and deployed with him several times over the years,” said Stanley. “The one thing I’ve always admired is his decisiveness. If a decision needs to be made, he’s very good at researching to make an educated decision. If he ever called you in the office to ask you a question, he already knew the answer. But, he would always listen to you.”

Gen. Nabors worked his way up in command at Key Field in the 186th Operations Support Flight, 153rd Air Refueling Squadron, 186th Operations Support Flight, 186th Operations Group, and eventually as the 186th Air Refueling Wing commander from 2013 - 2017.

Lt. Col. Charles Schellbach, 153rd Air Refueling Squadron commander, considers Maj. Gen. Nabors a mentor who taught him a very valuable lesson. 

“He was enjoyable to fly with, a very capable pilot, and helped change my perspective when trying to make a big life decision,” Schellbach said. “He taught me that sometimes you have to tell people what they don’t want to hear for the betterment of the unit. This helped steer me on my career path to where I am today.”

A native of Collinsville, Mississippi, the general served a total of 26 years at Key Field and his last five and a half years at JFH.  Throughout his time in service, Nabors deployed overseas in combat operations supporting Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Kosovo, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and multiple other contingency operations.


Major Gen. Nabors’ contributions while serving as the ATAG will be realized for many, many years to come. Recruiting process reorganization, force management restructuring, and diversity initiatives are Nabors’ top three most proud accomplishments.


During the past five and half years, he worked to reorganize the recruiting process in the Mississippi Air National Guard.  Currently, all three units the 186th Air Refueling Wing, the 172nd Air Lift Wing, and the Combat Readiness Training Center, are all above 100% manning. This was accomplished during two years of restrictions brought on by a pandemic.


Nabors is also proud of fact that force management was restructured in the Mississippi Air National Guard, allowing all Airmen to compete equally, fairly and openly for jobs.

“The command team and I have taken a leadership role on ensuring that diversity is a positive aspect of our force and recognized as such,” Nabors said.  “We want all of our Airmen to have the same opportunity to be all they can be, and we put in place procedures and processes where they can do that.”

Retirements are usually referred to as turning the page, entering a new season of life, and crossing the finish line. Nabors next chapter will give him more time to spend with his family who surrounded him on the day of his retirement. 

“It’s a balance of excitement,” said Nabors. “I’m looking forward to hanging out with my grandkids and not being distracted from playing with them, but there’s a bit of trepidation too of not being a part of this great military family on a day-to-day basis.”

The 186th Air Refueling Wing provides over 1,100 personnel and eight KC-135R aircraft to Air Mobility Command for worldwide operations. The Wing also supports domestic counter-drug and emergency response missions as well as overseas combatant commander requirements with an RC-26B aircraft.  Additional units at Key Field include the 238th Air Support Operations Squadron, the 248th Air Traffic Control Squadron, and the 186th Air Operations Group.