Josia Pagler has become the first woman to graduate as a warrant officer from Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and is now slated to operate MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based refueling drones.

Warrant Officer 1 Pagler was previously an aviation electrician’s mate 3rd class with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 based out of Jacksonville, Florida. But after learning she had graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2016, her division officer and assistant maintenance officer encouraged her to apply for the new aerial vehicle operator (AVO) warrant officer specialty.

“I honestly haven’t wrapped my mind around being the first of anything, however, I want to tell others to not hold yourselves back from going for something you want,” Pagler said. “Don’t be intimidated in a community where the majority are men.”

Pagler, who enlisted in 2019, was in the second class of warrant officers to graduate from OCS, according to Naval Service Training Command. Warrant officers typically go through the Limited Duty Officer/Warrant Officer/Chief Warrant Officer Academy, not OCS.

“However, the AVO community’s primary duty … closely aligns to that of warfighters in unrestricted designators,” Lt. Cmdr. Phil Chitty, a spokesman for Naval Service Training Command, said in an email to Navy Times. “As a result, AVOs conduct their initial training with other unrestricted line officer candidates at OCS versus the LDO/CWO Academy.”

The Navy specifically tapped warrant officers as the principal operators of the Stingray since they are expected to advance as technical specialists during repetitive assignments.

After OCS, these warrant officers will move to basic flight training for their “wings of gold,” receive the AVO designator, and complete advanced training on the MQ-25 aircraft.

The first class of warrant officers to complete OCS graduated in January.

“It’s awesome any time a woman can blaze a new trail in any new program or community,” Lt. Kyrie Slade, MH-60S Seahawk pilot and the OCS lead class officer, said in a Navy news release. “It proves that we can be as resilient, smart, and tough as our men counterparts.”

The Navy announced in December 2020 it was creating a new warrant officer specialty for those operating the MQ-25 Stingray and was aiming to recruit approximately 450 warrant officers in grades W-1 through W-5 between the next six to 10 years.

The Stingray is expected to join the fleet with an initial operating capability in 2024.

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