‘Top Gun’ Inspiration Named First Female Acting Deputy Defense Secretary

The woman who served as inspiration for the Top Gun character played by Kelly McGillis is a real life success and is being tapped as the first female acting deputy defense secretary.

The real life woman behind the character we all got to know as Tom Cruise’s character’s love interest during his time training at the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School in Miramar, California has received a big promotion.

Her real name is Christine Fox, and she has become the first woman named as the Pentagon’s No. 2. Fox will serve in an acting capacity until a permanent successor is named.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be her boss, and he had nothing but praise for the Top Gun employee, calling her “a brilliant defense thinker and proven manager.”

Hagel said in a statement:

“She helped identify the challenges, choices, and opportunities for reform facing the department during this period of unprecedented budget uncertainty. She will be able to help me shape our priorities from Day One because she knows the intricacies of the department’s budget, programs and global operations better than anyone.”

President Obama appointed Fox, who inspired the character Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood in Top Gun, which also starred Cruise as Maverick, Anthony Edwards as his RIO Officer Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, and Val Kilmer as Maverick’s nemesis, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky.

Fox replaces Ashton Carter, who is stepping down Wednesday. Previously, she has been director of cost controls at the Pentagon.

A senior defense official told NBC News that Fox would be able to “hit the ground running like no one else can.”

Christine Fox-Dept of Defense

“Simply put, no one knows the issues as well as Christine,” the official added.

But how did this unassuming woman become the inspiration to the Top Gun character?

According to a People Magazine profile that was published right before Top Gun hit theaters, Fox was working as a mathematician at the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego when she was introduced to movie producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.

Simpson and Bruckheimer had been trying to come up with a possible love interest for the main character, Maverick, and thought Fox had all the qualities they were looking for.

The result was Charlie, a beautiful, intelligent astrophysicist played by Kelly McGillis, who instructed the Top Gun candidates and Tom Cruise in particular. Fox helped McGillis prepare for the role. The fighter pilots nicknamed Fox “Legs.”

Fox told PEOPLE Magazine about her role in Top Gun in a 1995 interview:

“I don’t know anything about flying airplanes, but I know a lot about the guy in the back seat — his mission, his radar and his missiles.”

Now, a real life Top Gun, Fox has risen through the ranks and will take over her post until the Senate confirms a permanent replacement.