It’s hard to believe that it was over a century ago that the first naval aviator was designated by the U.S. Navy. 110 years after that happened, something else historic took place. The Navy has now named the first black female strike aviator, who is ready to accept the Wings of Gold insignia.
That pilot, Madeline Swegle, was congratulated by the Chief of Naval training on their official Twitter account.
“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” they tweeted. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”.
In case you aren’t familiar with the naval lingo, when somebody says BZ, they actually mean “Bravo Zulu,” which also means well done.
BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus. Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH! @FlyNavy @NASKPAO #ForgedByTheSea #CNATRA #CNATRAgrads pic.twitter.com/FKSlURWQhJ
— Naval Air Training (@CNATRA) July 9, 2020
The tweet was reposted by the US Naval Academy, adding: “Congratulations to USNA Class of 2017 grad, Lt.j.g. Madeline Swegle, who will become the first known African American female Navy jet pilot when she receives her Wings of Gold in Kingsville, Texas, later this month!”
Swegle graduated in 2017 from the US Naval Academy after being raised in Burke, Virginia. Her official assignment is the Redhawks of Training Squadron 21 in Kingsville. She is set to receive her Wings of Gold on July 31 during an official ceremony.
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Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) was a division of the Navy in 1942 and thousands of women were allowed to enlist during that time. There was even a number who were supervisors, but it wasn’t until 1944 that black women were allowed to join the Navy. The numbers were lopsided, with one black woman being trained for every 36 white women.
Harriet Ida Pickens and Frances Wills were the first to African-American WAVES officers, who graduated from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1944.
One of the first African-American women to enter the regular Navy was Edna Young, who did so in 1948.
Eventually, 72 African-American women would serve before WAVES was dissolved in 1948.
The Navy Times reports that white males make up most of the naval aviation ranks today. According to an investigation in 2018, there were 26 black pilots out of a total of 1404 who were flying the F-A/18. In addition, fewer than 2% of the pilots assigned to jet platforms were black.
At the same time, only 765 female pilots held that position in 2018, which is less than 7% of all pilots in the Navy.
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