Navy's First All-Female Flyover Will Honor First Female Fighter Jet Pilot

by Christina Marfice
Originally Published: 
Image via Naval History & Heritage Command / Facebook

Rosemary Mariner was a historic pilot, and now she’ll be remembered with a historic flyover

Rosemary Mariner, the first woman to fly a fighter jet in the U.S. Navy, died last month after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Now, she’ll be honored in a way that fits the legacy she left for the U.S. military: with the Navy’s first ever all-female flyover.

The tribute is common at Navy funerals, and involves four jets flying in formation above the service until one of them peels away and flies up into the sky solo. This will be the first time the tribute is performed with all female pilots, which is something Mariner herself helped make possible, according to CNN.

Commander Stacy Uttecht, Commander Leslie Mintz, Lieutenant Commander Paige Blok and Lieutenant Commander Danielle Thiriot will be the women who perform the flyover at Mariner’s funeral.

Mariner was a trailblazer for women who wanted to fly jets in the U.S. military. While her friends described her as “humble,” her accomplishments were anything but.

“She not only kicked doors open, she put a doorstop in the door and told others behind her to go through. Her mentorship was legendary,” Katherine Sharp Landdeck, one of Mariner’s former students at the University of Tennessee, told CNN. “It was an honor and privilege to know her.”

Mariner joined the Navy after graduating from Purdue with a degree in aeronautics at only 19 years old. In 1973, she was one of six women who were the first to enter the Navy’s flight school after it opened its doors to women. In 1978, four years after graduating from flight school, Mariner became the Navy’s first female fighter jet pilot following a court ruling that declared a U.S. policy prohibiting women from serving on Navy ships to be unconstitutional.

Mariner went one to be the first woman to serve aboard a Navy warship before getting her masters degree at the National War College in Washington, DC. She also served on the Staff of the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon. She spent her life working against rules that barred women from combat roles. She was mocked and ridiculed throughout her career for it, but she never gave up.

Mariner served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ Chair in Military Strategy at the National War College in Washington up until her retirement in 1997. As a civilian, she continued to fight to advance women’s roles in the U.S. military.

“Everyone who went into civilian aviation owes their career to Rosemary,” her fellow Naval officer Joellen Oslund told CNN. “Also, women with aviation experience in politics would not have that opportunity available without [her] legacy.”

Oslund added, “The flyover would make Rosemary so happy… beyond anything we could have hoped for. It’s a shame Rosie isn’t here to see it, but it’s so gratifying that her accomplishments are being honored and remembered.”

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