In 2005, Warrant Officer Tatiana Julien and her family had to shelter at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. A CH-47 Chinook helicopter later rescued them from the stadium after they spent a week there.
And just like how they were evacuated over a decade ago, Julien might find herself coming to the aid of people who may be similarly stranded after she recently became the Louisiana Army National Guard’s first Black female pilot, the Associated Press reported.
The New Orleans native currently serves as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot in B Company, 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion in the city of 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,” Julien said in a press release last Thursday. “There aren’t many women, and even fewer Black women in aviation, both in the military and on the civilian side.”
She also said she was unaware she’ll be making history when she underwent training. “It feels surreal,” she said.
Julien said a Black New Orleans pilot who was in her unit during a deployment to the Middle East from 2017 to 2018 inspired her to become a pilot. She said she noticed the officer, now Chief Warrant Officer 4 Troy Willis, was the only Black person serving as a Warrant officer pilot in her unit, WDSU reported. She added that seeing her fellow New Orleans native in the cockpit inspired her to also become one.
“I told Mr. Willis about my decision to become a pilot, and with no hesitation he said that he will mentor me,” she recalled. “He helped with putting my flight packet together, was there through all of my hardships during flight school, and he gave guidance when it was needed. Mr. Willis definitely had an impact on the start of my aviation career, and I thank him for that.”
“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,” Willis also said in the statement.
Julien enlisted at the Warrant Officer Candidate School in 2014. The female officer, who had an associate degree at the time, eventually graduated in 2019 and then finished flight school in July last year, per the Associated Press. Having also graduated from the University of New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Julien said she wants to further earn a master’s degree in either counseling education or human resources.
In a bid to inspire other students of her color, one of Julien’s mentors, Retired Sgt. 1st Class Haywood Harrison, said he has been making her talk to his Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Julien also said she wishes to similarly have a talk with students at her former school, George Washington Carver High School.
“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,” Julien said.
And though Julien is yet to partake in an emergency response mission, she has firsthand knowledge of the significance of her job as a warrant officer. “Hope, security and relief were all that I felt in that moment,” she said in reference to their 2005 helicopter rescue. “I am now in a position where I may have to do the same for someone else.”