FLY GIRL FLY ARMY
Tuskegee, Alabama will always be synonymous with African Americans and the pursuit of flight. This is why a now 1st Lieutenant Kayla Freeman attended the legendary ROTC program that is steep in rich tradition and heritage. Upon her graduating from Tuskegee University with a Bachelor's of Science in Aerospace Science Engineering and commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant, she then attended flight school at the Home of Army Aviation - Ft. Rucker, Alabama.
On June 24, 2018 she thus became the first African American female Army Aviator in the Alabama National Guard. There to pin her wings was yet another historical figure, Colonel Christine "Nickey" Knighton (RET). Colonel Knighton was the second black woman in the Department of Defense to earn her aviator wings, the first from Georgia, and the first woman in the U.S. Army to command a tactical combat arms battalion.
Lieutenant Freeman told the Army Times at the time of her pinning that, "Col. Knighton has been an inspiration to me since college. I felt that it was only right to have her pin me.". Colonel Knighton, like Freeman is a Tuskegee ROTC Alumnus as well.
It was while serving in Iraq in 2019 that she accumulated over 250 combat flight hours. In June of 2019 she was awarded the Air Medal. In the private sector, she is a
Flight Test Engineer for the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
These accolades come just a few years after the Washington D.C. Army National Guard gained its first African-American female aviator, 1st Lt. Dina Elosiebo in 2014. Lieutenant Elosiebo had an advantage while attending flight school at Fort Rucker. In her civilian career, she'd already previously earned her FAA commercial pilots license and became a certified flight instructor. She also had a connection to the Tuskegee Airmen. She received a scholarship from one of the Tuskegee Airmen association chapters, which enabled her to pursue her private pilot's license at age 19.
Sally Murphy, who retired as a Colonel, and United States Army Aviator was the first female U.S. Army helicopter pilot to graduate from flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama on June 4, 1974. Since that time numerous African American women have gone on to serve as aviators in all branches of the US Armed Forces including the US Coast Guard.
Lieutenant Freeman will be receiving the 2019 Veteran of the Year award during the annual Women’s Leadership Luncheon. The event will be hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army West/Central Alabama chapter in Tuscaloosa, Alabama later in the month of February 2020. Governor Kay Ivey will be on hand to present the award to Lieutenant Freeman.