VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side takes you to the skies and revisits a historic moment born out of Naval Air Station Oceana.
February 1, 2019, marked the first ever all-female flyover for the U.S. Navy, as nine Oceana-based female pilots honored a pioneer, Capt. Rosemary Mariner, with a “Missing Man Flyover” during Mariner’s funeral.
Mariner, who became the Navy’s first female jet pilot in the 1970s, died in January after a battle with ovarian cancer.
Mariner was a pioneer in her profession. She was the Navy’s first female jet pilot, the first female aviator to command an operational air squadron and one of the first females to serve aboard a Navy warship. She also helped in lifting restrictions on servicewomen in combat.
During her 24 years of service, she logged more than 3,500 flight hours in 15 types of aircraft.
Tommy Mariner is Rosemary’s husband, and he too is a veteran.
“Rosemary, when we went out on our first date, I said, I asked her a pretty good question … ‘what’s important to you? She said, I want to be looked at as a person.”
Commander Stacy Uttecht currently serves as Commanding Officer of VFA-32. She also led the flyover with all the women from the NAS Oceana flight line.
“If she hadn’t done what she did, we wouldn’t be sitting in front of you today,” said Uttecht. “It’s truly, everyone said, an honor that we are able to do this.”
“When it came time to do the flyover, as the third jet pulled up into the sky, symbolizing that the spirit had left the earth, I came up on the radio and said for Rosemary and I think all of us got a little tear in our eye,” said Uttecht. “We all landed and hugged and high fived each other and it was truly an awesome experience.”
For Uttecht and her female team, it is also a symbolic one, a moment to honor a woman who fought long and hard to make sure women in combat have an equal opportunity to soar.
“When I joined the Navy in 2000, no one ever told me no, no one ever told me I couldn’t fly jets, no one ever told me I couldn’t be the commanding officer of a squadron and it’s because of pioneers like Captain Mariner and all of her colleagues.”
“The doors are open. We never had to think about whether we could serve in combat roles or not because of things that Captain Mariner and her peers achieved on our behalf,” said LCDR Paige Blok.
And behind these pilots, the maintenance crew too, all females, which is a true example of women, leading women of today with no barriers. After all, the sky is literally their limit.
Uttecht and the other pilots from Oceana were recently featured on the “Today” show for International Women’s Day.