Nine NAS Oceana pilots to honor Navy veteran in first ever all-female flyover

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A special group of women from Naval Air Station Oceana is making history.

This weekend, they’ll fly in the first ever all-female flyover for the U.S. Navy to honor Captain Rosemary Mariner. 

She was the Navy’s first female jet pilot, and passed away last week.

The women tell 10 On Your Side they’re excited and humbled to be part of this historic event. 

Although this is a huge accomplishment for them, they said none of it would’ve been possible without Mariner paving the way first.

The nine pilots said they have more nerves being in front of our cameras than they do for the task ahead of them.

“I think for most of us, we’re just out doing our job. It’s truly an honor that we’re able to do this,” said CDR Leslie Mintz.

On Saturday, the women will take to the skies to honor Mariner with a “Missing Man” flyover at her funeral service. 

It’s the first time an all-female crew will do this type of tribute.

“This is a very exciting experience. We’re getting to celebrate the life of a true female trailblazer for the United States Navy, someone who, if she hadn’t done what she did during her career, we would not be sitting in front of you today,” said CDR Stacy Uttecht

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.

“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.

LCDR Jennifer Hesling agreed with that sentiment.

“I don’t feel limited in my job in any way by my gender. It’s a true testament to her legacy,” Hesling said.

The maintenance crew for the flyover is also entirely made up of women.

They hope that by making history, it will encourage future generations to follow their dreams.

“You can truly be anything that you want to be and because of Capt. Mariner, all of us are fortunate enough to stand here in these uniforms,” LT Kelly Harris said.

“I want them to grow up and know that they can do whatever they put their mind to and that there are no limitations,” Hesling added.

The group of pilots is made up of two TOPGUN graduates, a commanding officer, an executive officer and combat veterans.

They’ll be taking off from Naval Air Station Oceana on Saturday and will fly to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the service.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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