FORT RUCKER, AL (WSFA) - Since she was a child, Kayla Freeman knew she wanted to fly, she said. This goal led her to attend Tuskegee University and enroll in the school's Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
Upon graduation from Fort Rucker's Army Aviation School, now 2nd Lt. Kayla Freeman is making history by becoming the first black female pilot in the Alabama National Guard's history.
The distinction was first reported by Spc. Cody Muzio and Sgt. 1st Class Myra Bush for the U.S. Army.
"I didn't think about making history when I started this journey," Freeman said. "I just wanted to do the best that I could do and hopefully inspire a few people along the way."
Freeman graduated from Tuskegee in 2016, then went to Fort Rucker to enroll in the Army Aviation School. When she graduated on June 21, retired Col. Christine Knighton pinned Freeman's aviator wings to her uniform. Knighton was the second black woman in the Department of Defense to earn aviator wings and the first from Georgia to do so.
"Col. Knighton has been an inspiration to me since college," Freeman said. "I felt that it was only right to have her pin me."
Freeman said it was discipline, perseverance, and faith that helped her accomplish her goals.
"You can't let mistakes and setbacks keep you down," she said. "Learn from them and continue moving forward. Most importantly, keep God first and He will direct your path."
Major Gen. Sheryl Gordon, the first female general officer in the Alabama National Guard and the first female to serve as its adjutant general, also applauded Freeman's accomplishment.
"We take the ideals of equal opportunity very seriously, and we're extremely proud of 2nd Lt. Freeman's achievements. She worked very hard to earn those wings, and that's a great example for all of us."
Freeman is currently at Fort Hood in Texas where she is preparing to deploy to the Middle East as a platoon leader in the Alabama National Guard's 1-169th Aviation Battalion.
"I just plan to continue to develop my skills as an officer and aviator, as well as mentoring others," she said.