Top Fighter Pilot Wishes for Miss America Madison Marsh First Active Air Force Officer to Compete for Miss America


Top Fighter Pilot Wishes for Miss America


Top Fighter Pilot Wishes for Miss America: A potential Top Gun fighter pilot will compete for Miss America this month.
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Madison Marsh is not only the current Miss Colorado and a Harvard student but has a coveted place to train as a fighter pilot.
On Jan. 14, the 22-year-old Arkansas native will compete for the Miss America crown in Florida—an event featuring several phases including a public interview, as well as evening gown and fitness stages.
“Pageants are changing and one of the ways is in what being physically fit means to women,” 2nd Lt. Marsh said. “For me, it’s great because I need to stay physically fit and in the gym for the military, so it already coincides with pageant training.”

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From a young age, 2nd Lt. Marsh had a love of science and a dream to be a pilot and astronaut. Her parents encouraged her dreams, sending her to Space Camp when she was 13 years old where she met astronauts and fighter pilots.

Around that time, she learned about the United States Air Force Academy. At 15 years old, she started flying lessons, earning her pilot’s license two years later, and then began to work towards her goal of becoming a cadet.
While at USAFA, 2nd Lt. Marsh decided she would try competing in pageants as an extracurricular activity.

“As a freshman at the Academy, you might have a hard time finding your identity in a very new and challenging environment,” she said. “My cousin had competed in pageants for a long time, and one of the big things about it that I love is the community service aspect and the focus on public speaking.”
Three years later, she was crowned Miss Colorado.

“It was very surreal. I believe I’m the first active-duty officer from any branch to represent at the national level of the Miss America organization,” she said.

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2nd Lt. Marsh is quick to address the many preconceived notions and stereotypes about beauty pageants and their contestants.
“The Miss America organization that I’m a part of now is all focused on what you can provide for the community through your social impact, making sure that you have a stellar resume, that you’re good at public speaking, that you can connect with people, and are empowered to lead in other ways that are not just about you,” she said.

As Miss Colorado, 2nd Lt. Marsh enjoys talking with other young girls about being a pilot and serving in the military and sees it as an opportunity to dispel stereotypes that exist about military women.

She said: “It’s an awesome experience to bring both sides of the favorite parts of my life together and hopefully make a difference for others to be able to realize that you don’t have to limit yourself. In the military, it’s an open space to lead in the way that you want to lead—in and out of uniform. I felt like pageants, and specifically winning Miss Colorado, was a way to truly exemplify that and to set the tone to help make other people feel more comfortable finding what means most to them.”

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But 2nd Lt. Marsh’s future may see her as a Top Gun fighter pilot.

Upon graduation from USAFA and commissioning into the Air Force, she received a coveted pilot slot and is currently determining the career opportunities and personal projects she wants to pursue. However, the sad loss of her mother to pancreatic cancer may see her career take in cancer research.

She said: “I lost my mom about five years ago to pancreatic cancer, and I started a nonprofit almost immediately afterward with my family to raise money and awareness of pancreatic cancer for people in our town.

“I’m now trying to take the next step and use my studies from the Kennedy School to learn about the inner workings and the difficulties of what policy looks like. Issues like economic environments and other social pressures that might be inhibiting our ability to implement cancer policies that can affect all Americans.”

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In September, 2nd Lt. Marsh started a two-year master’s degree program in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School through the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Civilian Institution Programs.

She will also work with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and a professor from the Harvard Medical School to research early detection of pancreatic cancer.

“Towards the end of my time at USAFA, I started to realize that my bigger passions were in policy-making and cancer research so that’s why I ended up at the Kennedy School,” she said.

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