Earning her wings: US Navy officially welcomes first Black female Tactical Aircraft pilot

Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle receives her naval aviator Wings of Gold during a ceremony aboard Naval Air Station Kingsville. Swegle is the U.S. Navy's first Black female tactical jet pilot and will proceed to graduate-level flight training with the "Viki

The US Navy awarded its first Black female tactical pilot with her "Wings of Gold" over the weekend.

Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle received her wings along with 25 classmates in a small ceremony at Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas on July 31 -- a moment the Navy said marked "a significant milestone for Naval Aviation."

“I’m excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet,” Swegle said. “It would’ve been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it’s encouraging to other people.”

Swegle graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2017.


Student Naval Aviator Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle stands alongside a T-45C Goshawk training aircraft following her final flight to complete the undergraduate Tactical Air (Strike) pilot training syllabus, July 7, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Luke Redito/Released)

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Swegle's milestone comes more than 45 years after Rosemary Mariner in 1974 became the first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet, according to news outlets.

The Navy said Swegle follows in the footsteps of Brenda E. Robinson, the service’s first African American female naval aviator. Robinson earned her Wings of Gold in 1980 and was the 42nd woman to be designated a naval aviator.

“Lt. j.g. Swegle has proven to be a courageous trailblazer,” said Vice Adm. DeWolfe “Bullet” Miller III. “She has joined a select group of people who earned Wings of Gold and answered the call to defend our nation from the air. The diversity of that group—with differences in background, skill and thought—makes us a stronger fighting force.”