First African American AH-1 Cobra Helicopter Pilot

Chief Warrant Officer Four (CW4) Kenneth R. Franklin:

CW4 Franklin was born in Tunica, Mississippi. Six months after he was born, his parents moved to Chicago, Illinois. During his childhood, his family lived nearby Chicago’s O’Hare’s Airport. Hearing the frequent passing of the airplanes overhead, sparked his interest in aviation and motivating him to become a pilot.

Praying for the fulfillment of his dreams lasted throughout his school days, and upon graduation from high school, CW4 Franklin enrolled into Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Aerospace Systems at the School of Aviation.

Being more realistic of his dreams, CW4 Franklin decided he needed flying experience and that spawned the need for him to start his military career. In 1981, he joined the U.S. Air Force. After he reached his full potential in the Air Force, CW4 Franklin joined the U.S. Army in 1983. In 1984, he completed the OH-5A A/C Aero-Scout Pilot course and was assigned to Fort Polk, Louisiana. Upon completion of his active duty in 1988, CW4 Franklin joined Company A, 1/185th Aviation Battalion, Mississippi Army National Guard in Jackson, Mississippi. On March 26, 1992, CW4 Franklin joined the Arkansas Army National Guard and was assigned to Company A, 1/114th Aviation Battalion as an AH 1 Cobra Pilot. CW4 Franklin was the first African American AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter Pilot in the Arkansas Army National Guard.

In addition to serving as an AH 1 Cobra Pilot in Company A/1/114th Aviation Battalion, CW4 Franklin served as an Aeromedical Evacuation Pilot in the 172nd Medical Company (Air Ambulance) and an OH-58 Pilot for Company D, 2/135th Aviation Brigade, Arkansas Army National Guard. He was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer Four on May 2, 2001.

CW4 Franklin received numerous awards and medals to include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Air Force BCT Ribbon, Air Force Small Arms Ribbon and the Army Aviation Badge.

On April 14, 2003, CW4 Franklin retired from the Arkansas Army National Guard with over 20 years of military service.