This article by Diana Stancy Correll originally appeared in the Navy Times
Navy Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle has become the Navy’s “first known” Black female tactical jet pilot, according to the service.
The Navy said Swegle completed the undergraduate Tactical Air (Strike) pilot training syllabus 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!”
BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus. Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH! @FlyNavy @NASKPAO #ForgedByTheSea #CNATRA #CNATRAgrads pic.twitter.com/FKSlURWQhJ
— Naval Air Training (@CNATRA) July 9, 2020
Very proud of LTJG Swegle. Go forth and kick butt. https://t.co/Fmleo7Ajd3
— RDML Paula Dunn (@ViceCHINFO) July 9, 2020
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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.
It’s unclear what’s next for Swegle, and the Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Navy Times.
Lt. Cmdr. Brenda Robinson, whose call sign was “Raven,” made history in 1980 as the first Black female graduate from Aviation Officer Candidate School and a year later became the first Black woman certified for C-1A carrier onboard delivery carrier landings.
Robinson continued to be a trailblazer during her Navy career when she also became the first Black female flight instructor, evaluator, and VIP transport pilot in the Navy, according to Women in Aviation International.
Additionally, Capt. Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour became the first Black female pilot in the Marine Corps and the first Black female combat pilot in the entire U.S. military. She earned her wings in 2001 and was subsequently stationed at Camp Pendleton in California with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, according to a Marine Corps news release.
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Naval aviation is overwhelmingly composed of white males. According to a 2018 investigation from Military.com, there were only 26 Black pilots out of the 1,404 who flew the F-A/18. Additionally, the investigation found that less than 2 percent of all pilots assigned to jet platforms were Black.
Last month the Navy announced it was creating “Task Force One Navy” as it seeks to “promptly address the full spectrum of systemic racism, advocate for the needs of underserved communities, work to dismantle barriers and equalize professional development frameworks and opportunities within the Navy.”
Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 1, is heading the task force and will share his findings with Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, via the Navy’s Chief of Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr.
“We are at a critical inflection point for our Nation and our Navy and I want to ensure that we are fully responding to this moment as we work to facilitate enduring change,” Nowell said in a statement. “We must use the momentum created by these events as a catalyst for positive change. We need to have a deeper inclusion and diversity conversation in our Navy and amongst our own teams.”