Lt. j.g. Madeline G. Swegle will report to the “Vikings” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 at NAS Whidbey Island in Washington to begin training as an EA-18G Growler pilot.
The U.S. Navy’s first Black female tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Virginia native Lt. j.g. Madeline G. Swegle, received her Wings of Gold on Jul. 31, 2020 along with 25 classmates during a small ceremony at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, Texas.
As told by Lt. Michelle Tucker, Chief of Naval Air Training Public Affairs, in the article US Navy’s First Black Female Tactical Air Pilot Earns Wings of Gold in Texas, Swegle is attached to the “Redhawks” of Training Squadron (VT) 21 under Training Air Wing 2 at NAS Kingsville and completed her final undergraduate TACAIR training flight in a T-45C Goshawk jet trainer aircraft July 7. VT-21 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Matthew Maher presented Wings of Gold to each of his graduates during the ceremony.
Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff oversees all undergraduate flight training from the command headquarters at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.
“We are all incredibly proud of Lt. j.g Swegle and the entire class,” Westendorff said.
A 2017 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Swegle reported to Naval Aviation Schools Command at NAS Pensacola, Florida, where she completed Initial Flight Screening and Aviation Preflight Indoctrination. She completed Primary flight training with the “Boomers” of VT-27 at NAS Corpus Christi, and after selecting the TACAIR, or Strike, pipeline, Swegle progressed to Intermediate and Advanced training with VT-21.
Swegle is part of a new generation of TACAIR pilots to qualify on state-of-the art Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) unique to aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78): the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG). She completed carrier qualifications in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast, May 20.
“I’m excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet,” Swegle said. “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.”
Swegle and her classmates will advance to graduate-level flight training at their respective fleet replacement squadrons. Specific platform selection for the TACAIR training pipeline (F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, or F-35C Lightning II) typically occurs shortly before the winging ceremony. Swegle will report to the “Vikings” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 at NAS Whidbey Island in Washington to begin training as an EA-18G Growler pilot. VAQ-129 trains new naval aviators, naval flight officers, and naval aircrewmen in electronic warfare tactics, techniques, and procedures in preparation for their fleet assignments.
Swegle follows in the footsteps of Brenda E. Robinson, the Navy’s first African American female naval aviator. Robinson earned her Wings of Gold June 6, 1980 and was the 42nd woman to be designated a naval aviator.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy