Distinguished Women of Past and Present


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Billie Jean Grinder

From: United States: Tennessee
Fields: Military and Warfare
Key Words/Phrases: soldier, helicopter pilot, the Iraq War
Billie Jean Grinder, an Army Chief Warrant Officer 2, was the first female casualty of the Tennessee Army National Guard since the beginning of the Iraq War when her helicopter crashed on February 21, 2010 in Qayyarah.

Billie Jean was born August 9, 1984 and grew up in Smyrna, TN. Her stepfather and her sister were in the Tennessee Army National Guard and Billie Jean enlisted in the Guard after graduating from Smyrna High School in 2002. She became a helicopter pilot in 2007 and was deployed for her first tour of duty in Iraq in 2009. She served there with her husband, Sam Grinder, also a National Guard helicopter pilot.

Billie Jean was full of life and she was fearless. She "liked going fast and doing things that other people might see as dangerous," according to her sister, Melissa Smith. She was also known for her big smile and for her friendliness.

On Sunday, February 21, 2010, Grinder's OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed at a base near Mosul in Northern Iraq although the crash was not a result of an enemy action. Also killed was her co-pilot, Capt. Marcus Ray Alford of Knoxville, TN.

Her stepfather, Billy Davenport, an aviation mechanic, was stationed with her at Camp Speicher at the time of the accident which occurred just two weeks before she was scheduled to come home.

At the military funeral in Gallatin, Tennessee, three helicopters flew overhead in a missing man formation.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 2010.

References: various news articles.


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