Feb. 10, 1994: First U.S. Air Force female fighter pilot graduates
Twenty years ago this week at Luke Air Force Base, 1st Lt. Jeannie Flynn became the U.S. Air Force’s first female fighter pilot.
For a number of years, the role of women in combat was a topic of discussion throughout the U.S. On April 8, 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced the department was preparing a number of initiatives. Those initiatives would increase the use of women in the armed forces. One initiative was to use women in combat aircrew training roles including the position of fighter pilot.
Before her selection as the first female rated officer to train in fighters, Flynn had prepared herself for success. She was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Texas. She had recently graduated from undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin AFB, Texas. She also held a graduate degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University in California. Flynn was working to become an AT-38 instructor when chosen to train as an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot.
She entered the F-15E basic course, class 94-BBE on July 27, 1993. The 555th Fighter Squadron of Vietnam fame taught the course. Her class was composed of eight pilots and eight weapon systems officers. It was the 555th FS’s last basic course before moving to Aviano Air Base, Italy. Being the first female, the media asked her flight commander, Maj. Josef Siedl, how she was doing. He stated that the only thing that made her time as a student any different than anyone else was the intense media coverage.
Since graduation on Feb. 10, 1994, from Luke, Flynn married and took her husband’s name of Leavitt. She has flown the F-15E Strike Eagle at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; and at Nellis AFB, Nev. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons Instructor Course, she attended Air Command and Staff College and National War College in residence. Leavitt also served as the Chief of Special Technical Operations at U.S. Forces Korea.
In another assignment, she was the Chief of Master Air Attack Plans, 609th Combat Plans Squadron, 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces. Between Aug. 24, 2007, and Oct. 24, 2008, she commanded the 333rd FS at Seymour Johnson. Later she served as the chief of staff of the Air Force Fellow at the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C.
Since June 2012, Leavitt has been the 4th Fighter Wing commander at Seymour Johnson. She is a command pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours, including more than 300 combat hours. In her career, she has flown the F-15E, T-38A, AT-38B, and T-37.