Aviation History

Here are the Female Naval Aviators who will honor U.S. Navy First Female Fighter Pilot

Rosemary Mariner had personally mentored some of the women involved in the flyover

On Feb. 2, 2019 the U.S. Navy will bid farewell to its first female fighter pilot with its first all-female flyover.

Retired Capt. Rosemary Mariner, who served in the Navy from 1973 to 1997, reached many important achievements during her career: she was among the first women to earn her pilot wings in 1974, was the first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet in 1975, and was the first woman to command a naval aviation squadron in 1990, among others achievements.

Rosemary Mariner

During Mariner’s funeral on Saturday the U.S. Navy will perform its first all-female flyover, to honor not only her achievements but also her work as an educator and mentor – to female pilots in particular – during and after her naval career.

Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Dave Hecht told USNI News that the Navy had selected all female pilots to participate in this flyover, which is a first for the service, as well as one of two ground crew being female. Mariner had personally mentored some of the women involved in the flyover, he added.

Here’s the U.S. Navy’s statement regarding the flyover for retired Capt. Rosemary Mariner:

NORFOLK, Va. – To honor the life and legacy of a female pioneer in Naval aviation, the U.S. Navy will conduct the first ever all-female flyover this Saturday, Feb. 2 in Maynardville, TN. Officially referred to as a “Missing Man Flyover,” the tribute will be part of the funeral service for retired Navy Captain, Rosemary Mariner, who passed away on Jan. 24 following a long and brave fight with cancer.

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After completing flight training in 1974, Mariner was designated a naval aviator and received her Wings of Gold to became the Navy’s first female jet pilot, flying the A-4E/L “Skyhawk” and the A-7E “Corsair II”. She also was the first female military aviator to achieve command of an operational air squadron. During Operation Desert Storm, Mariner commanded Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron Thirty-Four (VAQ-34). In 1982, she reached yet another milestone by being among the first females to serve aboard a U.S. Navy warship, USS Lexington, and qualifying as a Surface Warfare Officer.

Mariner retired from the U.S. Navy in 1997 after obtaining the rank of Captain and logging seventeen carrier arrested landings, or “traps,” and completing over 3,500 flight hours in fifteen different aircraft.

The Missing Man Flyover is a special tribute honoring the service of aviators who have died serving their country. The maneuver features four aircraft flying above the funeral service in formation as one of the aircraft leaves the formation and climbs vertically into the heavens.

All of the aviators participating in the flyover are from squadrons based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana and will be flying F/A-18E/F “Super Hornets.”

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The participants are:

LCDR Paige “PUFN” Blok Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32

LCDR Paige “PUFN” Blok graduated in 2007 from the United States Naval Academy with a degree in Oceanography. She earned her Wings of Gold in August of 2009 and has flown both the F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18F Super Hornet. She has a M.S. in Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering and an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She reported to the Fighting Swordsmen of VFA-32 in January of 2019 as a Department Head.

CDR Stacy “Stigs” Uttecht Commanding Officer, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32

CDR Stacy “Stigs” Uttecht graduated from Virginia Tech in 2000 and earned her wings of gold in June of 2002. She has flown in the F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18F Super Hornet. She has logged over 3,500 hours of which over 1,220 are combat, and over 400 arrested landings. She deployed for Afghanistan for a year on IA, as well.

CDR Uttecht took command of the Swordsmen in January of 2018, becoming the second female to command an F/A-18 squadron.

LCDR Jennifer “Cujo” Hesling

LCDR Jennifer “Cujo” Hesling graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2008 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. She earned her Wings of Gold in 2010. She completed 40 combat missions and has been a flight instructor in the F/A-18F Super Hornet. LCDR Hesling is a Mom of twin daughters.

LT Christy “Buzz” Talisse Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211

LT Christy “Buzz” Talisse graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2013 with a degree in Quantitative Economics. She recently completed a deployment aboard the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Dynamic Force Employment with the Fighting Checkmates of VFA-211

LCDR Danielle “Purple” Thiriot Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106

LCDR Danielle “Purple” Thiriot graduated in 2007 from Harvard University and received her Wings of Gold in May 2010. She has led over 25 combat missions flying the F/A-18F and flew on the Super Hornet Tactical Demonstration Team, performing at airshows across the U.S. and Canada. Thiriot recently completed a tour at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. as Flag Aide to the Chief of Naval Operations, ADM John Richardson. In March of 2019, she will join the Pukin’ Dogs of VFA-143 as a Department Head.

LT Amanda “Stalin” Lee Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81

LT Amanda “Stalin” Lee grew up in Mounds View, Minnesota. While attending the University of Minnesota in Duluth and working at UPS, she decided to enlist in the Navy, graduating from Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois in 2007. Her successful enlisted career as an Aviation Electronics Technician led to her selection into the Seaman-to-Admiral (STA-21) Commissioning Program. LT Lee received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at Old Dominion University, and earned her commission in August 2013. She was designated a Naval Aviator in April 2016 and recently completed a deployment aboard the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75), in support of Dynamic Force Employment (DFE), Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR), as well as numerous exercises with NATO Allies.

LT Emily “Gong” Rixey Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic

LT Emily “Gong” Rixey graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2012 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. She flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet and is a graduate of the Navy’s premier Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). Upon graduation she reported to Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic where she currently serves as a Striker Fighter Tactics Instructor.

LT Kelly “Ston’er” Harris Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213

LT Kelly C. Harris is a 2010 graduate of Brevard College. She commissioned in October 2013 through Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island and was designated a naval flight officer in March 2016. In December 2017, Harris was assigned to her first fleet squadron, VFA 213 where she deployed on the USS George H.W. Bush. She flew twenty-five combat missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria. LT Harris has flown over 500 hours in the F/A-18F and has 100 carrier arrested landings.

CDR Leslie “Meat” Mintz Executive Officer, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213

CDR Leslie “Meat” Mintz graduated from the University of Virginia in 2000 with a B.S. in Systems Engineering. She earned her wings of gold in 2002 and flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet. She completed Navy Fighter Weapons School training (TOPGUN) and has deployed multiple times in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. CDR Mintz has over 2,800 flight hours.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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