If you’re in need of a little badass, #GoGirlBoss inspiration, look no further than Lt. j.g. Madeline G. Swegle who recently received the distinguished military honor of wearing those highly-coveted. wow-worthy “Wings of Gold.”
Following in the militaristic footsteps of the pioneering women who’ve made U. S. Navy history before her, such as Rosemary Mariner who became the first female jet pilot in 1974 and Brenda Robinson, the first Black woman to advance to U. S. Navy flight instructor, evaluator, and VIP transport pilot in the 1980s (according to the non-profit organization for Women in Aviation International), Lieutenant j.g. Madeline G. Swegle of Burke, Virginia, received her “Wings of Gold” late last summer after successfully completing tactical training last July 7th, officially becoming the first black woman strike pilot in U. S. Navy history. Swegle was named a naval aviator and awarded the prestigious, emblematic gilded naval aviator wings alongside her 25 classmates during an intimate ceremony at Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas.
This historical, milestone-in-the-making marks an aviator’s official completion of basic helicopter training in naval flight school. Despite the challenges of the Covid crisis over the past 14 months, the U. S. Navy is proud to have been able to graduate its largest class of strike aviators in nearly a decade.
So, what exactly is a strike pilot and what is their mission in regard to the U. S. military? A strike pilot flies the U. S. Navy’s strike aircraft, such as fighter jets, like the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the formidable F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, or the elusive, stealth EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.
“I’m excited to have this opportunity to work harder and flying high-performance jet aircraft in a fleet,” Swegle said in a statement. “…I never intended to be the first. I hope it’s encouraging to other people.” Swegle is now set to officially report to the Vikings of Electronic Attack Squadron 129 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington to begin training as an EA-18G Growler pilot. The training is designed to prepare the aviators in electronic, warfare tactics, techniques, protocols, and procedures, according to a U. S. Navy spokesperson.
The trailblazing, lady lieutenant was publicly lauded by her Naval Air Forces Vice Admin. De Wolfe “Bullet” Miller III, saying, “Swegle 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.”
Inspired to become a fighter pilot after seeing the iconic film The Blue Angels with her parents as a little girl, Swegle insists, “I don’t think the goal in my life is to necessarily be the ‘first’ at anything…I am really honored I got to wear the wings and get to fly planes and call myself a pilot.”
The sky is the limit for this fearless, jet-flying woman.