Friday, April 3, 2009
Women in Service: Air Force Lt. Col. Martha McSally
For the next installment of our Women in Service series, American Veteran has chosen to highlight Air Force Lt. Col. Martha McSally, America's first female combat pilot and the first woman to command an Air Force fighter squadron.
The U.S. military lifted the ban on women flying in combat 1991 and McSally was among the first female selectees to attend fighter training school. McSally graduated from the program in 1993 and was given her first combat assignment in 1995 with an operational A-10 Thunderbolt II squadron in Kuwait.
During her tour, McSally flew combat patrols over Iraq to enforce the no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch. In 2000, she returned to the Middle East with another operational squadron stationed in Riyhad, Saudi Arabia fulfilling the same enforcement role.
In 2004, McSally broke another benchmark for female aviators when she assumed command of the 354th Fighter Squadron for a combat deployment to Afghanistan. In a recent interview with Air University, McSally recalled her most memorable moments in Afghanistan, providing close air support for troops on the ground, and engaging the enemy.
According to Air University, McSally's unit flew nearly 2,000 sorties and compiled more than 7,000 combat flight hours during their tour in Afghanistan. For their accomplishments on the tour, McSally and her unit received the Air Force Association's David C. Shilling Award for "best aerospace contribution to national defense."
McSally is a native of Warwick, R.I. and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. She continues to serve in the U.S. Air Force and expects to pin on Colonel later this month. She is currently a student at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and her name is currently on the list for Air Force Group Command.
(Photo: McSally stands for a photo alongside her A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo.)