Madeline Swegle Becomes the First Black, Female Tactical Jet Pilot in the History of U.S. Navy

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Nearly 50 years after Rosemary Mariner became the first woman to take control of a tactical jet, Navy Lieutenant Madeline Swegle has become the first Black female tactical aircraft pilot.

The Navy said Swegle completed the undergraduate Tactical Air (Strike) pilot training syllabus last Tuesday, paving the way for her to fly aircraft like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter or the EA-18G Growler.

“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” Naval Air Training tweeted Thursday. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”

Rear Adm. Paula Dunn, the Navy’s vice chief of information, also offered praise for Swegle on Twitter and encouraged her to “go forth and kick butt.”

Swegle, a 2017 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is currently assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron (VT) 21 at Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas. The Navy said she will earn her wings at a ceremony July 31.

Public figures such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and tennis legend Billie Jean King also chimed in with their support.

“Congratulations, LTJG Swegle! You make the @USNavy and our country stronger,” Warren tweeted.

Swegle’s history-making accomplishment comes nearly 110 years after the beginning of naval aviation when an aircraft, flown by Eugene Burton Ely, took off from the cruiser USS Birmingham anchored in the Chesapeake Bay on November 14, 1910, according to the official blog of the Navy.

Pioneering athlete Billie Jean King, comedian D.L. HughleySen. Kamala Harris of California and former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly were among those who also congratulated Swegle.

Swegle’s historic achievement comes at a critical time for the country, amid protests over structural racism triggered by the death of George Floyd and the scandal of sexual violence within the U.S. military resulting from the disappearance of Vanessa Guillen.