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In the Air Over Baghdad

Courtesy Julie Kennon

PILOT: Kennon’s cargo includes wounded soldiers.

Julie Cox Kennon has hauled most everything in and out of Baghdad: American soldiers; Humvees; $16 million in cash; even that most essential of military supplies—a pallet of Pop-Tarts.

A pilot for the Air National Guard’s 105th squadron, Kennon, ’87, flies a C-130 cargo plane from her base in the United Arab Emirates, resupplying U.S. troops in Iraq and occasionally evacuating wounded soldiers. The 18-hour missions are grueling, and the air over Baghdad is actually more dangerous now than it was before the war supposedly ended last spring, says Kennon. But the most difficult part for her, she says, is being away from her three children, Isabel, 6, Will, 5, and Cole, 3.

Kennon left the day after Thanksgiving for her third rotation in the Middle East (she flew out of Uzbekistan during the war in Afghanistan), and was due to return home on January 6. It was the first time she’d be away from her family over the holidays. “I’m not looking forward to it,” she told Stanford shortly before departing. Her husband, Jerry, is also a pilot in the National Guard and returned from his own stint in Iraq just a couple of weeks before Kennon left again. Flying runs in the family in more ways than one: Kennon says she was inspired to join the Air Guard by her grandfather, a B-25 pilot killed in World War II.

When she isn’t flying for the Air Guard, Kennon is a radiologist at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville. She doesn’t know when she will be back at the hospital for good. “We’re not sure when the end is,” she says.

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