Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Judith Bruner, who served as one of the first female naval aviators in the 1970s and 1980s.
Born in 1948, Judith Bruner started preparing for a career in aviation from an early age. Her father, a pilot who served in World War II, managed an airport, and she was piloting planes solo by age 16. She attended The Ohio State University, first pursuing astronomy but ultimately graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. During her junior year, Bruner joined the Navy, completed basic training over the summer, and began her Navy career the day she graduated.
When Bruner entered the Navy in 1970, the aviation field was not open to women. She first worked with computers, but in 1973, the Navy changed its policy to allow women to fly. Bruner applied and joined the first group of women to undergo flight training. She attended flight training in Pensacola, Florida, and Corpus Christi, Texas, and completed her training in 1974.
Bruner’s first mission as a Navy aviator was performing hurricane reconnaissance out of Jacksonville, Florida, followed by oceanographic research at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. During her time as a Navy aviator, she flew around the world and visited every continent except Antarctica. She also served as a legislative liaison officer at the Pentagon. After 10 years on active duty, Bruner switched to Reserve duty and pursued a civilian career at NASA.
In 1981, Bruner began working as a contractor for the Goddard Space Flight Center, a NASA research and development center for unmanned space flight. Her first assignment involved programming the ground control system for the Hubble Space Telescope. In tandem with her NASA employment, Bruner also continued to serve in the Navy Reserve and held various commanding officer positions for technology-focused projects.
Bruner retired from the Navy in 1998 with the rank of captain. She became the first female Navy aviator to reach that rank. During her service, she received four Meritorious Service Medals and a Navy Commendation Medal.
As of 2014, Bruner had been working as the director of Safety and Mission Assurance at Goddard. In this position, she is responsible for ensuring the safety of NASA workers and that all flight missions are carried out successfully. She has been recognized at NASA for her leadership and management accomplishments.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Nolan Lounsbery
Editors: Theresa Lyon and Annabelle Colton
Fact checker: Timothy Georgetti
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley