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    Colonel Karen F. Brannen, First Female Fighter Jet Pilot in the Marine Corps

    Colonel Karen F. Brannen, First Female Fighter Jet Pilot in the Marine Corps

    Courtesy Photo | U.S. Marine Corps Col. Karen F. Brannen, poses for a photo during her retirement ceremony.... read more read more



    Story by Lance Cpl. Shane Linder 

    Marine Corps Base Hawaii

    True equality for opportunity amongst its ranks is a requirement that the Marine Corps strives daily to achieve. While certainly not perfect, the Marine Corps of today owes a debt of gratitude to those who blazed the trail of progress for today’s Marines. Through trying times of the past, some Marines stood out from amongst their peers, even in the face of adversity. U.S. Marine Corps Col. Karen F. Brannen, the first female fighter jet pilot in the United States Marine Corps, is one of those Marines.

    Brannen is a Georgia-native who commissioned into the Marine Corps in 1994. Following in her father’s footsteps, she became a United States Marine.

    “One of the first songs I knew growing up was the Marines’ hymn,” she stated. She also reflected on her initial ambitions at the time she first joined. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot, and women couldn’t be fighter pilots,” said Brannen.

    Brannen explained that much of her career was spent trying to overcome the misconceptions other Marines had of working with a female pilot.

    “I am not somebody who wanted to be first. That does not interest me at all. Particularly, if I had known the reception I would get being first, it would have interested me even less,” Brannen explained. “The Marine Corps didn’t have any female pilots at all until after combat exclusion laws passed in the spring of 1993.”

    She was confused as to why her gender played any role in what her fellow Marines thought of her. Brannen recalls hearing negative comments disparaging a woman’s ability to fill the role as a pilot and even questioning her motives for being in the training school.

    After transitioning to her first duty station at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, Brannen remembers her first encounter with the executive officer of the squadron.

    “My check-in brief was, ‘You are ruining my men's rod and gun club. Now get out,’” Brannen described.

    While insults like these plagued the early portions of her career, Brannen was determined to be successful, despite the naysayers. Over time, she started noticing that things began to change. Her fellow Marines were becoming more receptive as she got to know them and they began to recognize her skills as a pilot. As she proved her worth to her units in the air, she earned respect from subordinates, peers and leaders alike. Brannen’s journey was not easy, but she can now look back on her career and say that she opened the door for Marines who dare to challenge the status quo.

    “I hope that for a small part of the Marine Corps, I have made a difference in making life easier,” Brannen said. “Not because I intended to be in that position, but just that I did well at it.”

    The passion and tenacity of Marines like Brannen have drastically improved the equality of opportunity experienced in the Marine Corps today. We maintain a much stronger and more lethal force because of her perseverance and dedication. Semper Fi, Ma’am.




    Date Taken: 08.25.2021
    Date Posted: 08.26.2021 21:34
    Story ID: 403920
    Location: HI, US

    Web Views: 863
    Downloads: 0