In the B-2’s 30 year history, there have been nearly 700 people airborne in the two-person cockpit of the $2.2 billion stealth bomber. About 500 of them have been pilots — only 10 of whom have been women.
The 10th woman to become a B-2 pilot, Capt. Lauren Kram, graduated from her training course at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Oct. 4, 2019.
“Nine incredible women have come before me, blazing this trail,” Kram says. “I feel honored to be among them and I know there will be many more of us that follow.”
Their collective story began 19 years ago in 2002. Each has a common theme of strength, perseverance, making a long-time dream come true — and inspiring future generations.
During the month of March, we will be featuring the 10 women.
Number Seven: Lt. Col. Jennie Swiechowicz, Spirit Number 577
Like proud parents do, Jennie Swiechowicz’s mom and dad love to talk about her. Shoppers at the grocery store, customers at the bank and acquaintances around the neighborhood all hear about their daughter — the B-2 pilot.
There’s just one problem: “Nobody believes them,” Swiechowicz says.
“I don’t know if they think my parents got the name of the airplane wrong, or if it’s because I’m female. I want to think it’s the former,” she says with a laugh.
Swiechowicz knew she wanted to be a pilot since her first flight in a Cessna as a teen growing up in Virginia. She pursued Air Force ROTC in college and after being commissioned, began pilot training with just two other women among the men.
“We stuck out like sore thumbs,” she remembers. It was hard for her to find her place. She wasn’t exactly one of the guys, but didn’t quite fit in with their wives either, Swiechowicz says.
“It didn’t deter me. If anything, it made me want it more.”
Though lonely at times and definitely not always easy, Swiechowicz continued to pursue the dream she’d had since she was a child growing up in Virginia. First she flew the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and then the B-2, where she faced an even smaller gender ratio, becoming the seventh female B-2 pilot in 2012.
Looking back, she says even if her gender mattered to other people, she didn’t let it matter to her.
“The airplane doesn’t care who’s flying it,” Swiechowicz says. “Flying is the great equalizer.”