Meet Jeanine Menze, the First Black Female Helicopter Pilot for the U.S. Coast Guard

Jeanine Menze

The United States Coast Guard has been around since its founding in 1790. Since then, the branch has collected over 44,500 active-duty personnel. With about 800 pilots, the U.S. Coast Guard has more pilots than the Air Force! And yet, it wasn't until 2005 that the Coast Guard commissioned their first black female helicopter pilot. Her name is Jeanine Menze.

Menze was born in Kingston, Jamaica before her family moved up to Canada and back down to Florida. While living there, Menze studied her way through the Florida International University with an International Business Degree. After her graduation, Menze started her path toward becoming a pilot.

According to the Foundation for Women Warriors, Menze took flight lessons in Daytona Beach alongside a class of predominantly white males. She states in an interview: "I panicked...I don't see anyone that looks like me, and I felt like I didn't belong." But this did not stop her. In 2003, Menze joined the U.S. Coast Guard and worked her way up the ranks.

It wasn't until two years later that she earned her aviator wings. Menze was sent on a flight all the way to Hawaii so she could continue her training. As the very first black female aviator for the Coast Guard, Menze holds a title that opens doors for many black men and women alike.