Madeline Swegle becomes U.S. navy’s 1st Black female fighter pilot: ‘Go forth and kick butt’

On July 9, Madeline Swegle became the first known Black female fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy.
On July 9, Madeline Swegle became the first known Black female fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy. @CNATRA / Twitter

Madeline Swegle has made history as the U.S. navy’s first-known Black female fighter pilot.

Swegle is set to receive her “Wings of Gold” on July 31, according to an announcement tweeted out on Thursday by the chief of naval air training.

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

“BZ,” per ABC News, refers to the naval term “Bravo Zulu,” meaning “well done.”

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It won’t be long before Swegle is soaring through more than glass ceilings in fighter jets like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter or the EA-18G Growler, according to the Navy Times.

She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017 and is assigned, the publication says, to the Redhawks of Training Squadron (VT) 21 at Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas.

“Very proud of LTJG Swegle,” Paula Dunn, the navy’s vice chief of information, tweeted. “Go forth and kick butt.”

Other big names, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and tennis great Billie Jean King, pitched in with their support, too, with Warren tweeting: “Congratulations, LTJG Swegle! You make the @USNavy and our country stronger.”

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The history-making moment comes 110 years after the beginning of naval aviation, CNN reports, when an aircraft took off from Chesapeake Bay in 1910. It then took 64 years before the first woman, Rosemary Mariner, flew a tactical jet with the navy, according to Women in Aviation International.

Just a day later, an unidentified soldier became the first woman to joint the Green Berets after graduating from Special Forces training, Army Special Operations Command said in a statement.

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She was one in about 400 graduates and one of only three women going through the training program.

According to a 2018 analysis by, only about 2.7 per cent of pilots in navy squadrons were Black. Less than seven per cent were female.