TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Later this month, the Alabama National Guard’s first black female pilot will be recognized as the 2019 Veteran of the Year from a Tuscaloosa organization.
First Lieutenant Kayla Freeman, 26, will receive the award on Feb. 26 during the “Women’s Leadership Luncheon,” hosted by the West/Central Alabama chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army. Gov. Kay Ivey will give the award to Freeman.
Freeman is the first black woman helicopter pilot in the 200-year history of the Alabama National Guard, first receiving her wings in 2018. Freeman was first deployed to Camp Taji in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom, where she flew over 250 combat flight hours that were both accident and incident-free.
In May 2019, Freeman was awarded the Air Medal.
“I didn’t think about making history when I started this journey,” Freeman told the U.S. Army’s website, army.mil, after first receiving her wings in 2018. “I just wanted to do the best that I could do and hopefully inspire a few people along the way.”
Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon, the first female general officer, applauded Freeman’s historic accomplishment.
“We take the ideals of equal opportunity very seriously,” Gordon told army.mil. “She is further proof that we don’t see race or gender in the Alabama. National Guard — we see Soldiers and Airmen and their potential. She has worked very hard to earn those wings, and that’s a great example for all of us.”
Prior to joining the Alabama National Guard, Freeman attended Tuskegee University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in aerospace science engineering. At her civilian job, she is a Flight Test Engineer for the U.S. Army Redstone Center in Huntsville.
The ceremony will take place at the Tuscaloosa River Market at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 26. Tickets to the event are $30 per person and must be made payable to the AUSA West/Central AL Chapter or by mail at Post Office Box 32, Cottondale, AL 35453
No reservations will be accepted after Feb. 22.