A U.S. Naval officer made history last week as the military branch’s first known Black female tactical jet pilot.
Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle made a final flight on a T-45C Goshawk training aircraft to complete her undergraduate Tactical Air (Strike) pilot training syllabus on Tuesday, the Navy said. Swegle, who is assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron (VT) 21 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, is set to receive her Wings of Gold in a ceremony on July 31.
“Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!” the Chief of Naval Air Training wrote on Twitter, wishing her “BZ,” short for “Bravo Zulu,” the naval signal meaning “well done.”
Public figures from Sen. Elizabeth Warren to tennis great Billie Jean King congratulated Swegle on social media after the announcement. RDML Paula Dunn, the U.S. Navy’s vice chief of information, celebrated Swegle’s accomplishment on Twitter.
“Very proud of LTJG Swegle. Go forth and kick butt,” she wrote.
Swegle follows in the footsteps of trailblazers like Brenda Robinson, who is thought to be the first Black female aviator in the Navy. Women have served on U.S. combatant ships since 1994. However, the Navy has faced criticism for the lack of diversity amongst its pilots.
As of 2018, only about 2.7% of pilots in Navy maritime squadrons were Black, according to analysis by Military.com; less than 7% of all Navy pilots were female, according to Pensacola News Journal.
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