Navy’s first Black female fighter pilot earns her wings

Lt. Madeline Swegle completed tactical air aviator training and later this month will become the U.S. Navy's first black female fighter pilot, the Navy announced this week. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

July 10 (UPI) — The U.S. Navy acknowledged that Lt. Madeline Swegle completed training and will become its first Black female tactical jet pilot in a July 31 ceremony.

“BZ [the congratulatory ‘Bravo Zulu’] to Lt. j.g.Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” the Navy’s Chief of Naval Air Training Public Affairs Office said Thursday on Twitter. “Swegle is the US Navy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month.”

Swegle, a Virginia native, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017, and completed her tactical air pilot training syllabus at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, this week, qualifying her to fly F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, among others.

Her achievement comes 46 years after Capt. Rosemary Mariner became the first woman to fly tactical fighter planes for the Navy. Mariner retired in 1997 and died last year.

In 1995, Martha McSally became the first U.S. fighter pilot to fly in combat. She is now a U.S. Senator from Arizona.

Swegle’s milestone comes as the service branches examine racial discrimination in their ranks, part of a larger national discussion about race and authority.

In 2018, two Navy airmen, who are Black and male, accused the TACAIR training program of discrimination. An investigation found that their core allegations were baseless ordered changes, acknowledging that the men did not receive “appropriate dignity and respect” from instructors.

In June, the Navy announced a task force to address issues of racism, sexism and other discriminatory actions within its ranks.


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