Rear Adm. Sara “Clutch” Joyner received her commission in 1989 graduating with merit from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography. After graduation, Joyner attended flight school and earned her naval aviator wings in July 1991 from Training Squadron 24 in Beeville, Texas.
Her first assignment was at Fleet Composite Squadron (VC) 5 at Cubi Point, Philippines flying the A-4E as an adversary pilot in 1992. With the closure of the base, she transferred to VC-8 at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico where she continued to execute adversary and ships services through 1994. She transferred to Commander Strike Fighter Wing, Pacific in 1994 and served as assistant operations officer until, due to the repeal of the combat exclusion law, she was able to transition to the FA-18 Hornet. Upon completion of her training as a Hornet pilot, she reported to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the “Argonauts” in May 1997. Remaining with VFA-147 for both her junior officer and department head tours, she completed two Western Pacific cruises to the Arabian Gulf aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in 1997 and 1999 aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in support of Operation Southern Watch.
In November 2001, she again deployed with VFA-147 aboard Stennis in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In January 2002, she reported to U. S. Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Virginia, where she served in the Current Operations Branch as force deployment officer for U.S. Northern Command, U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command Areas of Responsibility in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. She reported to VFA-105 in November 2006 as executive officer. In 2007, Joyner assumed leadership of Super Hornet Strike Fighter Squadron "Gunslingers "(VFA) 105 and deployed in support of the surge in Iraq. In 2013, she took command of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 and deployed aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) to the Arabian Gulf. Joyner has flown the A-4E Skyhawk, as well as the F/A-18 Hornet, Super Hornet and Growler.
Joyner established her place in naval history as the first woman to command a VFA-105 in 2010, and as the first female commander of a Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 in 2013. As of 2017, Joyner has held numerous other leadership positions in the Navy including assignment as joint strike fighter requirements officer, with the Chief of Naval Operation's Strategic Studies Group and as director, Navy Senate Liaison, Office of Legislative Affairs and as lead of the Physiological Episode Action Team (PEAT) in Washington, D.C. Since June 2018, she has been serving as the director for Manpower and Personnel (J1) on the Joint Staff.