Madeline Swegle makes history as US Navy’s 1st Black female fighter pilot

The U.S. Navy celebrated a historic moment this week as it announced Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle was set to become its first Black female tactical fighter pilot.

Swegle has earned her wings as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and will receive her “Wings of Gold” in late July, according to a tweet posted on Thursday by the Chief of Naval Air Training.

The Chief of Naval Air Training congratulated Swegle with a “BZ,” or “Bravo Zulu,” a naval term meaning “well done.”

“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” wrote the Chief of Naval Air Training. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”

The announcement comes more than four decades after women first received their wings in the Navy. Capt. Rosemary B. Mariner, the first woman to command an operational naval aviation squadron, earned her wings in 1974, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

Brenda Robinson, who earned her wings in 1980, became the first African American female graduate from the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School, according to the nonprofit organization Women in Aviation.

Swegle, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is receiving an outpouring of praise and support for her achievement.

“Very proud of LTJG Swegle,” wrote Rear Adm. Paula D. Dunn, the Navy’s vice chief of information, via Twitter on Thursday. “Go forth and kick butt.”

“Congratulations, LTJG Swegle!” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Saturday. “You make the @USNavy and our country stronger.”

Her achievement comes as pilots have said the Navy’s aviation community needs more diversity in its ranks.

A 2018 investigation by Military.com revealed that Black pilots are rare in the service, particularly in fighter units. According to Navy data provided that year, just 1.9% of all pilots assigned to the F/A-18 Hornet, EA-18 Growler, E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound were Black.

-ABC