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Rosemary B. Mariner: The US Navy's First Female Fighter Pilot

Born: April 2, 1953

Harlingen, Texas

Died: January 24, 2019

Joined the US Navy: 1973

Years of Service: 1973 - 1997

Rosemary B. Mariner was intrigued by the world of aviation from a young age. Growing up in San Diego, California, Rosemary would watch planes land and takeoff at Miramar Naval Flight Station. She started taking flight lessons in her teens, working odd jobs and cleaning planes in order to pay for lessons. By the time Rosemary turned 17, she acquired her pilot's license and went on to earn an aeronautics degree from Purdue University.

During her early life, she faced push back from men who were convinced women like her would never be able to enter into certain military roles. According to some, women were too fragile and could not be trusted to do a man’s job. Rosemary disagreed, and did everything in her power to prove them wrong. From there, she joined the Navy in 1973 and set out to create waves in the world of military aviation.

In the 1960’s, women faced many obstacles in the military world. Women that entered the Navy were commonly assigned roles such as nurses or administrative positions. It wasn’t until the late 60’s and early 70’s when more opportunities began to open for females serving in the navy. In the 1970’s, a series of new policy directives were released known as Z-grams. In 1972, Z-Gram 116, titled “Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women” was issued, allowing women to serve at sea for the first time and opening more roles and ranks traditionally held by men. It was this new directive that helped Rosemary become one of the first female US Navy fighter pilots.

In 1973, Rosemary was chosen along with 8 other women to enter US Navy flight-training. She graduated in 1974 and became the first female fighter pilot to fly an attack aircraft for the Navy. But she didn’t stop there.

Some of Rosemary Mariner’s other notable achievements include:

-- First female pilot to be assigned to an aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington, 1982

-- Earned a Masters in National Security Strategy from National War College

-- First woman to command an aviation squadron for the Navy, 1990

Throughout her naval career, Rosemary logged more than 3500 hours in 15 different types of aircraft. She is also credited with helping to repeal laws and restrictions keeping women from combat positions. Rosemary was a huge advocate for women’s rights and fought to keep expanding opportunities for women in the military. She didn’t see service members as men or women, she saw them as people. She believed gender should not dictate whether or not you should be in combat. Instead, one should judged based on their ability.

Rosemary passed away this past January after her long battle with cancer. In honor her legacy and service, the first ever all-female Missing Man Flyover was conducted in February. Although Rosemary Mariner is no longer physically here, her spirit and mission lives on and continues to inspire women to keep breaking barriers and pushing forward.



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