Former Blackhawk pilot honored as AD13’s Veteran of the Year

SACRAMENTO – The Assembly District 13 Veteran of the Year for 2016 is a warrant officer and Blackhawk pilot from Stockton who served in the U.S. Army through four overseas tours and alongside some of the first female combat helicopter pilots.

Andrea “A.J.” Hurford, also served through “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and its predecessor policy, an outright ban on gay men and women serving in the military. An out-and-proud lesbian and past president of the Central Valley Stonewall Democratic Club, Hurford said she is also proud to have served in a military that now formally accepts her for who she always was.

Hurford enlisted in the army in 1986, and was trained as an Avionic Communications Equipment Repairer. She was selected following testing to attend training to become a warrant officer and pilot. Graduating from flight school in October 1989, Hurford flew UH-60 Blackhawks for the army around the world, including deployments to the Republic of Korea, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Panama, and Germany. 

Throughout her service, Hurford was often the only woman in her unit, and almost always the only woman officer, though she was lucky enough to serve alongside one of the first female helicopter combat pilots, the first woman to pilot the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and the first to pilot the AH-64 Apache.

After 12 years on active duty, Hurford transitioned to the California National Guard, serving units based in Fresno and Sacramento. Her duties included the supervision, planning, coordination, preparation and execution of aviation missions. Her guard service was strongly supported by her employer, Constellation Brands Inc.

Some of her awards include two Meritorious Service Medals, four Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, the Expeditionary Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the NATO Service Metal, and the Senior Aviator Badge. She also graduated from the Maintenance Officer Test Pilot Course and the Jungle Warfare School.

Hurford has a bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics and a master's degree in organizational management. She is an active and involved member of her community. She has served on the city's Water Advisory Group and as chair of several local organizations. Hurford has lived in Stockton for the past 10 years with her wife and partner for a decade, Kitty Chapman.

Known for being reticent to speak too much about her military service, Hurford said she is humbled to have been selected for this honor.