The last time retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori L. Hill (’06, WW) flew a helicopter, she was in Iraq. She had a gunshot wound and her helicopter was taking enemy fire, forcing her to make an emergency landing.
“You could just hear the bullets pinging and firing off the helicopter,” Hill says, recalling that day in March 2006. “I did not know I got shot. I felt pain but kept going.”
Hill’s actions led to her becoming one of the few military women awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for heroism. She is also a Purple Heart recipient.
Now married with two young sons, Hill will be a featured speaker at the DFC Society’s biennial convention Sept. 24-28, 2017, in Dallas, Texas. The event theme is Heroic Women of the DFC.
Hill was conducting a routine reconnaissance flight in her Kiowa Warrior when she and her co-pilot were asked to assist a ground unit being fired upon. While trying to suppress the enemy fire, Hill’s helicopter was hit and lost hydraulic power. She was left struggling to control and land the chopper.
Hill says she didn’t even realize she had been shot in the ankle until she had landed and sat down to take off her boot.
“The bullet went through my heel and up my ankle,” she says.
Hill was in a cast for six months as her shattered leg bones healed. She got pregnant shortly thereafter and decided to retire from the Army in 2007.
“I would not be the person I am today if I had not spent 20 years in the Army,” she says. “I loved flying in the Army.”
Blazing Trails for Women
Hill says she was a shy 17-year-old teenager from Springfield, Ore., who joined the service to get money for college. She became an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior pilot and an aviation safety officer in the Air Cavalry and served in Germany, Korea and Iraq with deployments to Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The hardest thing about learning to fly a helicopter is to hover,” Hill says. “But it is like riding a bike. Once you get it, it seems so easy.”
When she started flight school at Ft. Hood, Texas, she was one of a handful of other female pilots. She was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., where she was the first woman to be assigned to B Troop. Hill says she stood her ground and worked hard, which helped her earn the respect of those around her.
“I honestly believe a woman can do any job she wants to, but she has to meet the same standards males do,” Hill says.
While serving, she earned her bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science with minors in safety and business from Embry Riddle’s Worldwide Campus.
A New Chapter
Since retiring, Hill has focused on being a mother to her two boys, Jacob, now 9, and Dylan, 7. Her husband is an active-duty helicopter pilot with 28 years of service. The couple were at one time in the same squadron.
“Sometimes he will fly past our house for our boys to see him, and I’ll miss flying,” Hill says.
Currently, she is substitute teaching, volunteering at her children’s school and pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education. She says that every so often, someone she knows now will stumble upon the photo of her receiving the DFC award from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, and they’re amazed that it’s her.
“Women can not only be in the military, but they can do in the military whatever they set their minds to do,” Hill says.