A woman who was once rescued from the Superdome on a helicopter during Hurricane Katrina has gone on to become the Louisiana Army National Guard’s first Black female pilot.
Warrant Officer Tatiana Julien of New Orleans pilots a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in B Company, 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion, which is based in Hammond.
“I feel like I now have a responsibility to let young females know that aviation is an option for them even though it is a male-dominated field,” she said in a news release sent Thursday. “There aren’t many women, and even fewer Black women in aviation, both in the military and on the civilian side.”
She said she had no idea she’d be a trailblazer when she asked for the training.
“It feels surreal,” she said.
The Louisiana Army National Guard’s 115 or so helicopter pilots include six African Americans, three other minorities and five women, including Julien, Sgt. Dennis Ricou, a guard spokesman, said in an email.
Julien decided to become a pilot after seeing a Black pilot from New Orleans in her unit while it was deployed to the Middle East from 2017 to 2018. That pilot became her mentor.
“We often don’t realize what kind of impact we have on other people’s lives. Simply seeing someone doing their job is enough to spark an interest,” said Julien.
She graduated Warrant Officer Candidate School in August 2019 and completed flight school on July 21, 2021.
Julien had an associate degree when she enlisted in 2014 to continue her education. She now holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of New Orleans and intends to pursue her master’s degree in either counseling education or human resources.
The pilot she met in the Middle East, now Chief Warrant Officer 4 Troy Willis, said, “I am extremely proud of Julien. Her level of intelligence and her inquisitiveness really stands out, making her a perfect candidate to become a pilot, and I believe that diversity of our armed forces is what makes us strong.”
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Haywood Harrison, another of Julien’s mentors, now asks her to talk to his Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps classes at Broadmoor High school in Baton Rouge.
“My students needed to see someone that looks like them, someone that wasn’t exposed to helicopters but was able to seek out the things she needed to do to become the first African American female pilot” in the Louisiana Army National Guard, he said.
Julien said she’d like to talk to students at George Washington Carver High School in New Orleans, her alma mater.
“I feel like the exposure just isn’t there for many young Black kids in the community I grew up in. A lot of us don’t know about opportunities like this,” said Julien.
Julien knows first-hand how valuable emergency missions can be. After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, Julien and her family were rescued from the Superdome in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. They had been there for a week.
“Hope, security and relief were all that I felt in that moment. I am now in a position where I may have to do the same for someone else,” she said.