U.S. Navy’s first Black female Tactical Air Pilot earns her wings
KINGSVILLE. TX (WIS) - One woman has made history in the U.S. Navy after becoming the first Black female to receive her Wings of Gold as a tactical air pilot on July 31.
Virginia native Lt. j.g. Madeline G. Swegle was designated a naval aviator and received her Wings of Gold along with 25 classmates during a small ceremony at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, TX.
Swegle is a 2017 graduated of the U.S. Naval Academy and is currently assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron (VT) 21 under Training Air Wing 2 at NAS Kingsville and completed her final undergraduate TACAIR training flight in a T-45C Goshawk jet trainer aircraft on July 7.
VT-21 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Matthew Maher presented Wings of Gold to each of his graduates during the ceremony.
According to the U.S. Navy, Swegle is part of a new generation of TACAIR pilots to qualify on state-of-the art Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) unique to aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG). She completed carrier qualifications in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast on May 20.
“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 follows in the footsteps of Lt. Cmdr. Brenda E. Robinson, the Navy’s first African American female naval aviator. Robinson earned her Wings of Gold June 6, 1980 and was the 42nd woman to be designated a naval aviator.
Capt. Vernice 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.
Swegle’s historic achievement is significant due to the fact that Naval aviation is overwhelmingly composed of white males. A 2018 investigation conducted by Military.com found that out of the 1,404 pilots that flew F-A/18′s only 26 of them were Black. Additionally, that investigation discovered that less than 2% of all pilots assigned to jet platforms were Black.
In June, the Navy announced that it was creating a Task Force One Navy to address systemic racism, advocate for the needs of underserved communities, work to break down barriers and create equal opportunities for professional development and other opportunities within the Navy.
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