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Meet the first black female pilot in the Louisiana National Guard

PINEVILLE, La. — A woman who was once rescued from the Superdome aboard a helicopter during Hurricane Katrina has become the first black female pilot in the Louisiana National Guard.

Warrant Officer Tatiana Julien from New Orleans pilots a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Company B, 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion, based in Hammond.

“I feel like I have a responsibility now to let young women know that aviation is an option for them, even though it’s a male-dominated field,” she said. said in a statement sent Thursday. “There aren’t many women, let alone black women, in aviation, both in the military and in civilian life.”

She said she had no idea she would be a pioneer when she applied for the training.

“It’s surreal,” she said.

The roughly 115 Louisiana National Guard helicopter pilots include six African Americans, three other minorities and five women, including Julien, Sgt. Dennis Ricou, a spokesman for the guard, said in an email.

Julien decided to become a pilot after seeing a black pilot from New Orleans in his unit during his deployment in the Middle East from 2017 to 2018. This pilot became his mentor.

“Often we don’t realize what kind of impact we have on other people’s lives. You just have to see someone doing their job to spark interest,” Julien said.

She graduated from Warrant Officer Candidate School in August 2019 and completed flight school on July 21, 2021.

Julien held an associate’s degree when she enlisted in 2014 to further her education. She now has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of New Orleans and plans to pursue her master’s degree in counseling or human resources training.

The pilot she met in the Middle East, now Chief Warrant Officer 4 Troy Willis, said, “I’m extremely proud of Julien. Her level of intelligence and her curiosity really stand out, which makes her a perfect candidate to become a pilot, and I believe that the diversity of our armed forces is what makes us strong.

Retired Sergeant. 1st Class Haywood Harrison, another of Julien’s mentors, now asks him to speak at his Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps classes at Broadmoor High School in Baton Rouge.

“My students needed to see someone who looked like them…someone who wasn’t exposed to helicopters but was able to research the things she needed to do to become the first African-American female pilot” in the Louisiana National Guard, he said. .

Julien said she would like to speak to students at George Washington Carver High School in New Orleans, her alma mater.

“I feel like a lot of young black kids in the community I grew up in just don’t feel like we’re exposed. A lot of us aren’t aware of opportunities like this one,” Julien said.

Julien knows firsthand how valuable emergency missions can be. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Julien and his family were rescued from the Superdome in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. They had been there for a week.

“Hope, safety and relief was all I felt at the time. I am now in a position where I may have to do the same for someone else,” said she declared.