Lieutenant Madeline Swegle made headlines Friday by becoming the first Black female tactical aircraft pilot in US Navy history, CBS News reports. The trailblazer received her Wings of Gold along with 25 classmates at a graduation ceremony at the Naval Air Station in Kingsville, Texas. "I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," she said in a Navy release. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people." She called her three years of study "daunting," but said her dream of flying fast planes went all the way back to childhood.
"My parents raised me and they told me that I can be whatever I wanted to be. We would go see the Blue Angels when they were in town," she said. "They were just so cool I loved them. I love fast planes." Apropos, she finished her undergraduate training in a T-45C Goshawk jet trainer aircraft, and will be heading to Washington state to begin her graduate-level training in an EA-18G Growler. She's following in the tradition of other female US Navy pioneers, including Rosemary Mariner, the first female jet pilot in 1974, and Brenda Robinson, the first Black female Navy evaluator, flight instructor, and VIP transport pilot in the 1980s, per CNN. Said Swegle: "I am really honored that I get to wear the wings and get to fly planes and call myself a pilot." (Read more Navy stories.)