MEET AMANDA LEE: THE FIRST FEMALE BLUE ANGELS F/A-18E/F PILOT
By Meaghan MacDougall
Women in the military continue to create history this year after Amanda Lee is announced to be the first female demonstration pilot as a part of the Blue Angels. In their 76-year history, the Blue Angels have never had a female demonstration pilot as a part of their squadron – until now.
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Who Is Amanda Lee?Amanda Lee is currently stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, and is assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron 106. Lee began her military career when she enlisted in the United States Navy in 2007 while attending the University of Minnesota. She began her career working as an aviation electronics technician until she was later selected by the service’s enlistment commissioning program in 2013 to be an officer. In 2016, Amanda Lee was designated a naval aviator before she was deployed to the USS Harry S. Truman in support of the Dynamic Force Employment Operation “INHERENT RESOLVE.” In 2019, Lee took part in the first-ever all-female flyover for the funeral service of Navy Capt. Rosemary Mariner. On July 18, 2022, Amanda Lee, who goes by the callsign Stalin, was named the first female Blue Angel to fly an F/A-18E/F as a demonstration pilot.
Who Are the Blue Angels?The Blue Angels were created in 1946 by Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Chief of Naval Operations at the time. Nimitz had a vision to create a flight exhibition team that would raise the public's interest in naval aviation. As a result, the Blue Angels were established and have been putting on flight shows for the public for decades. Today, there are 154 active-duty Sailors and Marines who are a part of the Blue Angels. They are stationed at Forrest Sherman Field, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, during the airshow season. When they are in training season – January through March – the Blue Angels are stationed at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California. The Blue Angels pride themselves on their flight demonstrations and how they showcase the professionalism, teamwork, and excellence that is found in all units of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Now with Amanda Lee as their female pilot, Blue Angels are able to pride themselves on creating significant military history.
Female Military Pilot HistoryAlthough Amanda Lee is the first female Blue Angels pilot to fly an F/A-18E/F as a demonstration pilot, she is not the first ever Blue Angels female pilot to exist. The very first woman pilot who was a part of the Blue Angels was Marine Maj. Katie Cook. In 2015, Cook joined the Blue Angels squadron as the pilot who flew the KC-130 Hercules logistics aircraft, also known as “Fat Albert.” Cook made significant history for women in the military, but Captain Rosemary Mariner was the one who inspired all women pilots to achieve greatness. In 1974, Mariner was the first female aviator to qualify on tactical jets. She went on to be one of the first women who served on a Navy warship and the first female to command an operational squadron. As Amanda Lee took part in the first all-female flyover for Captain Mariner’s funeral in 2019, Lee is one of many female pilots who were inspired by her story. In an interview released by the Navy during the time of Mariner’s funeral, Lee stated, “When I come into the ready room right now, I’m a pilot first, a person second, and my gender really isn’t an issue. It’s people like Capt. Mariner that have paved the way for us, so it's really a huge honor. I’m super humbled to be a part of this flyover in her honor.” Amanda Lee and the rest of the new Blue Angels team are reporting to their unit in September, when they will go through a two-month turnover period. After the current Blue Angels team ends their season in November, the entire squadron will go through their training period until the 2023 season begins.
Related read:Get To Know Doris Miller, the First Black Person To Earn the Navy Cross
Image: U.S. Navy
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