A Conversation with 1stLt Paige McFarland

Interview Conducted by Taylor E. Watson on 13 September 2021

1stLt Joe McFarland, USMC; 1stLt Paige McFarland, USMC; and CAPT Mike Denkler, USN (Ret)

Our most recent Daedalian Top Grad, 1stLt Paige McFarland, USMC earned her Wings of Gold as a Naval Aviator 10 Sep 2021 at NAS Whiting Field, FL, making the Commodore’s List with Distinction and finishing first in her class. 1stLt McFarland will report to Camp Pendleton, CA and fly the AH-1Z Cobra.

At left in photo is her husband, 1stLt Joe McFarland, who is also stationed at Camp Pendleton & flying the Cobra. Joe graduated #1 in his winging class 15 Jan 2021 anad also won the Daedalian Top Grad Award!!! (A Daedalian Rep could not present the award due to Covid). This has to be the first husband & wife team to win our Award; very special.

  1. What inspired you to become a military aviator?

As a kid, I always knew I wanted to be an astronaut. Going into college, I was looking around for scholarship opportunities and received an ROTC scholarship at FSU. My freshman year I didn’t have much direction for my career.

My sophomore year, during CORTRAMID, we spent one week with each community: aviation, subs, SWO, and Marines. I already knew I was going to join the Marines, but during aviation week I got to fly in a T-34 and had a blast. As soon as I got back to my unit, I turned in my aviation packet and got a guaranteed flying slot.

2. How did you and your husband meet?

We both went to FSU but met at his commissioning. The Platoon Leaders Course (PLC) leadership encouraged us to go and support those who were graduating. We officially met at the event, got to talking, and realized we both wanted to fly jets and it went from there. We both ended up flying helos and are super pumped.

3. How as spouses, do you help each other in your aviation careers?

A lot of support and understanding. My husband went ahead of me through training, and he’s been able to provide answers to lots of questions and support. I get to run ideas by him about how I’m going to approach things, and it’s tremendously helpful. When he was going through training, we were able to live together, I did dinners and was able to help him with studying and things like that. The mutual understanding we have is really valuable.

4. What advice would you have for anyone aspiring to be a military aviator?

Work hard. Study a lot. Never give up. Flight school took a long time. There was a lot of wait time and I was actually medically down halfway through the program. You have to have that determination and motivation within yourself to keep going all the way to the end.

5. Who is one of your aviation heroes?

Amelia Earhart, as she is the most well-known female aviator and as I was growing up she was who I looked to as the ideal female aviator. Later on, my commander at TBS was a female Cobra pilot who was 5’1” and weighed nothing but did everything. As I’ve progressed, she’s become my idol and mentor and someone I really look up to and aspire to be like.

6. What are you most excited about for your future career?

I’m mostly just excited to get out to the fleet and do my part. I’m ready to get out there and get after and support our Marines on the ground flying Cobras.

7. Why did you join the Daedalians?

When I was presented with the award and got my wings, I realized it was a neat organization. It’s a small, select group of elite, committed people. And my husband is in it, too, which is pretty cool.