Making Naval History At Super Bowl LVII

Well, another Super Bowl has gone into history, and, as is always the case, some people are thrilled with the outcome, and others are grousing over the last flag and holding call. I did not watch this year’s Super Bowl game and haven’t for years. But this year’s event included something for us all to celebrate. It was an experience of real historical importance. The four fighter jets that performed the fly-over just after the playing of the National Anthem were flown for the first time in Naval history by a fully female team of pilots and weapons officers.

I have to admit that I grow ever more bored with this annual circus, with all of its hype and super-heated exuberance and over-the-top decadent entertainment. It feels more and more like a cultural return to the pagan Coliseum games of the Roman Empire, when the 2nd-century Roman satirist and poet Juvenal wrote in his satirical poem “Satire X” the now famous phrase, “Panem et circenses,” meaning “bread and the circus” or “bread and the games.” He was making a satirical comment about the games that the Roman emperors sponsored in the Roman Coliseum as a cynical means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy but by diversion, distraction, and satisfying the immediate or base desires of the populace.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Mornings

It seems that diversion and distraction and immediate gratification work as well today as they did 2,000 years ago. But this year’s fly-over before the Super Bowl LVII game by four of the Navy’s various fighter jet models gave us all cause for real celebration, as it also honored our nation’s women military pilots.

The military jet fly-over has become a tradition with sports events. They have become a part of the spectacle for the crowds in attendance and the TV viewers. But this year’s fly-over was unique, even very special. Most people in attendance or watching on TV were probably unaware of the fact that those beautiful fighter jets that flew over them with all of that power, speed, and potential lethality were making Naval air history. They were piloted, for the first time, by four female U.S. Navy pilots and three female weapons officers, all of them combat veterans. It was a team made up (really and symbolically) of seven women. These women were chosen to fly this year’s mission to commemorate the now 50 years since the first women were allowed to become pilots in the military. It was in 1973 that seven women became the first to be allowed to enter a military flight school. Of those first seven women, six earned their wings and have been known as the “First Six.” Today, 15% of the Navy’s pilots are female.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Mornings

This video is from CBS News and is done by one of their reporters, who had the privilege and luck to climb into the back seat of one of those jets with its pilot, Lt. Margaret “Peggy” Dente, and experience what it is like to fly in one of the two F/A-18 Super Hornets that flew the mission over this year’s Super Bowl. There were two other Navy jets in the formation as well, an F-35C Lightning II stealth combat aircraft and an EA-18 Growler electonic attack jet. The fly-over mission for this year’s game took off from Luke Air Force Base, AZ.

Flying the F/A-18 Super Hornets were Lt. Arielle Ash from Abiliene, TX; Lt. Saree Moreno, a weapons systems officer from Tampa, FL; Lt. Naomie Ngalle, a weapon systems officer from Springfield, VA; and Lt. Caitie Perkowski, a pilot from Albuquerque, NM.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Mornings

Flying the EA-18 Growler were Lt. Margaret Dente, a pilot from North Salem, NY, and Lt. Lyndsay Evans, an electronoic warfare officer from Palmdale, CA. As a matter of local pride for this writer, these women are stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, north of the Seattle, WA, area.

Flying the F-35C Lightning II was pilot Lt. Suzelle Thomas from Birmingham, AL.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Mornings

The nation can be proud of these seven United States Navy women who are among the best of the best. We honor the service of each one of the seven women who participated in Super Bowl LVII’s fly-over event. We thank them for their service to the nation and wish them all “Fair Winds and Following Seas” during the rest of their Navy careers. Bravo Zulu!

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