Jane Skiles O'Dea

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Jane Skiles O'Dea
Capt. Jane Skiles O’Dea. Pictured with her was flight school classmate Capt. Rosemary Conatser Mariner to her left.
Born 1950 (age 66–67)
Ames, Iowa
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1972–1997
Rank Captain
Commands held Navy Recruiting District, Indianapolis

Captain Jane Skiles O'Dea was one of the first six women to earn their wings as Navy pilots in 1974, and was the first woman qualified in the C-130 Hercules.[1] She was also the first Navy woman qualified as a flight instructor.[2] She was the first female Navy aviator to achieve command (Navy Recruiting District, Indianapolis) and to be selected for the rank of captain.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

O'Dea was born Jane Skiles in 1950.[4] Her father Paul, an architect, had served as a naval aviator in World War II.[5] Her mother Claire had been a naval supply officer.[4] O'Dea attended Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa.[6] She graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Political Science.

Navy career[edit]

O'Dea joined the Naval service in 1972. In 1974 she was selected as one of the first eight women to enter military pilot training. She completed women's Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI, then headed to Pensacola, FL for flight training. She was designated a naval Aviator in April 1974, one of the first six women to earn their wings as Navy pilots. The other five women to earn their wings were Barbara Allen Rainey, Rosemary Bryant Mariner, Judith Ann Neuffer, Ana Marie Fuqua, and Joellen Drag.

During her naval career, O'Dea spoke of her frustration with Congressional mandates that prevented military women from serving in combat.[4] Because of the no-combat rules, the female pilots' opportunities for career advancement were somewhat limited. "It's very discouraging to know the best you can play on is the junior varsity team no matter how good you are," she said in a 1984 interview.


O'Dea retired from the Navy with the rank of Captain on April 11, 1997. She was the Navy’s senior woman aviator at the time of her retirement. One of the initial group of six women to complete Navy flight training, O’Dea received her wings in April 1974 . She was the first to achieve command (Navy Recruiting District,Indianapolis) and to be selected for the rank of captain. She had logged over 3,000 hours in the C-130, C-1A, T-34, and EC-130Q while assigned to VR-24, VT-2, USS Lexington (AVT-16), and VQ-4.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ebbert, Jean and Marie-Beth Hall (October 1999). Crossed Currents: Navy Women from WWI to Tailhook [Revised]. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's. ISBN 978-1-57488-193-6. 
  2. ^ Sandy Russell (February 1981). "High Flying Ladies" (PDF). Naval Aviation News. 
  3. ^ a b "Woman Aviator Pioneer Retires" (PDF). Naval Aviation News. May–June 1997. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-25. 
  4. ^ a b c https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1356&dat=19840823&id=kdgTAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iwYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6981,4703933%7C Ocala Star-Banner, August 23, 1984.
  5. ^ Helen F. Collins (July 1977). "Women in Naval Aviation: From Plane Captains to Pilots" (PDF). Naval Aviation News. 
  6. ^ http://www.trhsfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=12%7C Theodore Roosevelt High School Hall of Fame

Further reading[edit]

  • Pexton, Patrick. Closing Out First-Filled Careers: Navy's Female "Gray Eagles"

Are Calling it a Day. Navy Times 46:16 May 19, 1997.

External links[edit]