Marines Choose First Female Pilot For F-35 Lightning II
Another piece of military history was quietly written into the books last week with the graduation of the most recent class from U.S. Navy’s flight school program. Two graduating Marines became firsts for the Marine Corps. Both graduates were assigned to the F-35C flight training program directly out of Naval flight school.
One of them, Lt. Catherine Stark, is the first female Marine to be so chosen. Her fellow graduate is the first male Marine to be chosen for the F-35C program as well. This is unusual as prior to this, those chosen to enter the F-35C fleet were veteran pilots of the F-18 fighter jet from the fleet.
The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th generation fighter that was designed to replace the Navy, Marine Corps F-18 fighter and the F-22 for the Air Force. The F-35C is specifically designed for aircraft carrier take-offs and landings.
Stark has a degree in aerospace engineering from the United States Naval Academy. She was commissioned an officer in the United States Marine Corps upon graduation in 2016. She entered U.S. Naval flight school after graduation and was in training for 18 months. This involved two flights a day in various air platforms.
Stark said of the training, “I can only compare it to becoming a medical doctor. Your flying every day and getting evaluated and really intensely scrutinized.”
She received her Wings of Gold last week at the graduation ceremonies in Kingsville, Texas. She will now be entering the grueling and complex F-35C flight training program for the next year before being finally deployed to the Navy’s F-35C fleet replacement squadron.
Stark is the 4th of 8 children in her family. Of those 8 children three, including Catherine, are in the military. Her brother, Lt. Joseph Stark, is a Naval Supply Systems Command logistics director for Seal Team 4. Her sister Zophia, a fellow graduate of the United States Naval Academy was commissioned as a 1st Lt. in the Marine Corps after her graduation.
The Veterans Site sends its congratulations to Lt. Catherine Stark for her acceptance into the F-35C training program. It is clear that she gained this appointment through her demonstrated skills, her confidence and determination during the Navy flight school. May this be the beginning of a great career for her.
Semper Fi, Marine. OooRah!