Jul 032013

Karen receives her “Wings of Gold.” 1997

First Female Marine Strike Pilot –Karen Fuller Brannen


She stood proudly on October 17, 1997 when she received her “Wings of Gold,” and became the first female marine strike pilot.  Even after this event, Brannen still had to prove herself as a woman in a male bastion. At this point in time her maiden name was Tribbett.

Two years ago (2011) she addressed a gathering of Navy and Marine Corps personnel during a Women’s History Month luncheon.  When she began her training, she had no idea of the obstacles she would face as a woman.  What can be said of her is that she paved the way and made it a lot easier for women today.


F/A 18 Hornet jet fighter

Brennan, however, was already a confident and talent flyer regardless of her gender.

She was the top graduate in her class and was selected to fly the F/A 18 Hornet where she received garnered the call sign “Stump.”

Going back to her high school years, Brannen recalls the jokes and sniggers when she voiced her ambition to be a pilot.  Brennen served her time before receiving those “Wings of Gold,” in 1997.  She had served in several squadrons in California and in Japan beginning in 2003.

Looking back at her experience flying in squadrons, Brennen thought that receiving her “Wings of Gold,” would stop the constant scrutiny of her male colleagues.  This was not the case.  Every new base brought the same comments that equated to a lack of confidence in men who were basically questioning if a woman could be capable of flying the Hornet in a safe and efficient manner.

In 2010 Karen married Marine Corps Major Matt Brannen (Judge Advocate in the Maarine Corps).  She has two stepdaughters, Delaney and Lauren.  Lt. Col. Branen personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Gold Star in Lieu of Second Award.

I should add that another incredible achievement has been overcoming the male barriers and opening the doors to future young  female pilots.



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