Lieutenant Madeline Swegle, who made history as the U.S. Navy’s first Black female tactical fighter pilot, will receive her Wings of Gold on Friday. “I am really honored that I get to wear the wings and get to fly planes and call myself a pilot,” said Swegle in a video released by the Navy ahead of her July 31 ceremony.
The Virginia native celebrated her historic achievement earlier this month after she completed her training at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I don’t think the goal in my life is to necessarily be the first at anything. That was never something that I set out to do, it was just something I was interested in and I found out later,” she said.
Swegle said she had aspirations of becoming a pilot since her parents would take her to see the Blue Angels.
“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.”
Her early love of fast planes became the focus of her career and she describes her three years of training with a higher-performance aircraft “daunting.” She admitted there were times she didn’t think she would make it.
“It took a lot of fighting the aircraft to figure out how it was going to perform,” she said.
“Looking back it’s amazing to think about where I started and I had never been in an airplane before so, it’s just one step at a time. It’s really cool to think of all of the things that I’ve done now which I’d never thought that I’d be able to do.”
“To show up here at this level, you need to be a top performer and then you have to continue to perform while you’re here. These are the best pilots in the world that are trained here, the very best,” said Maher.
“She, just like all of her fellow Wingees, are at that standard of excellence and they’re going to go out and make all of us very proud.”
The young trailblazer hopes that her journey inspires others to join her field. “I hope that my legacy will be that there will be a lot of other women and minority women, just different faces that come forward.”
Swegle’s accomplishment comes 40 years after Brenda Robinson became the first African-American woman to earn her Wings of Gold.