Winning with inclusion and respect: First transgender naval aviator regains flight status
“Winning with inclusion and respect is one of NAVAIR’s core values – and foundational to our ability to deliver the warfighting capability the fleet needs to win, at a cost we can afford. Including people from different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, beliefs, and perspectives brings creativity, innovation and increases our performance level -- and that is exactly what we need to win today, tomorrow and in the future,” VADM Carl Chebi, Commander Naval Air Systems Command said.
The Bureau of Navy Personnel (BUPERS) recently granted a flight status medical waiver to Cmdr. Emily “Hawking” Shilling, making her the Navy’s first transgender Naval Aviator to be cleared, post-transition, for flying duty.
“The Navy has supported me every step of the way,” Shilling said, who currently serves as the Unmanned Carrier Aviation Mission Control System, Deputy Program Manager for the Unmanned Carrier Aviation Office (PMA-268) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. “(New) policy may have let me serve and opened the door to potentially flying again, but it was the people of the U.S. Navy, those in command and those on the line, whose unrelenting support truly let me thrive while serving.”
“Commander Shilling is an exceptional performer and critical member of our NAVAIR team, a team that is focused and dedicated to delivering the capability the fleet needs to execute their mission successfully and return home safely,” Chebi said.
Her former commander at PMA-268, Capt. Samuel Messer, echoed Chebi’s sentiments. “Part of my command philosophy is to treat everyone with kindness and respect. That means literally everybody,” he said. “I knew about [Shilling's] professional reputation when we were going to bring her in to fill one of our military billets. I wanted her on our team because of her abilities, her knowledge and expertise. We want people of her caliber and her abilities on our team. She is a decorated aviator and test pilot and has a deep understanding of many of our capabilities. It was an easy and obvious choice. I am glad we were able create a command environment that was supportive to her.”
Shilling joined the Navy in 2005 earning wings as a naval aviator in 2007. She has flown the F/A-18 E/F, EA-18G, F-16, and 18 other aircraft, and completed two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Her awards include three air medals and the Daedalian award for superior airmanship during an in-flight emergency in her EA-6B. She is a 2015 graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
“As the 78th Secretary of the Navy, I am proud of the service of every American who takes the oath to put their lives on the line in defense of our country – and their families, who make their service possible,” said Secretary Carlos Del Toro.