The history of naval aviation began over 100 years ago. And now, after a century of technological innovations, the United States Navy has made one particularly important stride. On July 31, Madeline Swegle became the United States Navy’s first Black female tactical air pilot.
“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 U.S. Naval Academy in 2017. By earning her Wings of Gold, she follows the path of the Navy’s first African American female naval aviator. Brenda E. Robinson received her Wings of Gold in June 1980, becoming the 42nd woman to earn the “naval aviator” title.
“There’s more work to do to make sure that we recruit, train and retain a diverse force that represents the best and brightest of this nation,” Adm. Sara Joyner, a career naval aviator and ceremony guest speaker, said. “Everything in Naval Aviation requires teamwork, and you will be judged by your professionalism, demonstrated capability, and leadership.”
Looking at active duty members, the Navy remains overwhelmingly male and white.
“After three years, that was a long journey. There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Swegle said. “I’m glad that I kept pushing.”
Learn more about Swegle and her journey to become a tactical air pilot below.