Martha McSally

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Martha E. McSally
Martha McSally 2012.jpg
Photo of Martha McSally from just prior to the end of the 2012 election
Born (1966-03-22) March 22, 1966 (age 48)
Warwick, Rhode Island
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1988–2010
Rank Colonel
Commands held 354th Fighter Squadron
Battles/wars Operation Southern Watch
Operation Allied Force
Operation Enduring Freedom

Martha E. McSally (born March 22, 1966) is a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. She was the first American woman to fly in combat since the 1991 lifting of the prohibition of women in combat, flying the A-10 over Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operation Southern Watch.[1] McSally is also the first woman to command a USAF fighter squadron, the 354th Fighter Squadron (354 FS) based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. After her military career, McSally ran as the Republican candidate for Arizona's 2nd congressional district in 2012, where she lost in a close race.[2] McSally is running again in 2014, winning the Republican nomination for Arizona's 2nd district. In November 2014, she will face incumbent Ron Barber in a rematch of 2012's race.[3]

Early life[edit]

McSally was born in 1966[4] in Warwick, Rhode Island, the youngest of five children. She was 12 when her father, Bernard, a lawyer, died of a heart attack. McSally's mother, Eleanor, became a reading specialist in order to support the family.[5]


McSally with an A-10 Thunderbolt II

McSally graduated at the top of her class at St. Mary's Academy Bayview in 1984.[5] She won a scholarship to the United States Air Force Academy, graduating in in 1988.[5] She earned a Master's degree from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government following graduation from USAFA and then proceeded to pilot training.[6] McSally was first in her class at the Air War College.[3]

Military career[edit]

McSally earned her wings following graduation from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, Texas and was initially assigned to Laughlin as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) in the T-37 jet trainer. Following the repeal of the combat aircraft restriction for female pilots, McSally became the first woman in U.S. history to fly a combat aircraft into enemy territory when she flew into Iraq in support of the United Nations no-fly zone enforcement.[5] She completed Lead-in Fighter Training (LIFT) in 1993. McSally completed Replacement Training Unit for the A-10 Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and was assigned to an operational A-10 squadron and was deployed to Kuwait in January 1995. During that deployment, she flew combat patrols over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. In 1999, she also deployed to Europe in support of Operation Allied Force. McSally was selected as one of seven active duty Air Force officers for the Legislative Fellowship program, during which time she lived in Washington, D.C. and advised John Kyl on defense and foreign affairs policy.

Promoted to Major, she reported to Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2000 for a temporary assignment in support of Operation Southern Watch. Promoted below the zone to Lieutenant Colonel, she took command of the A-10 equipped 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB in July 2004, and was subsequently deployed to Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom, where she employed weapons loaded on her A-10 in combat for the first time. In 2005, McSally and her squadron were awarded the David C. Shilling Award, given by the Air Force Association for the best aerospace contribution to national defense.

Lawsuit against the Department of Defense (McSally vs. Rumsfeld)[edit]

McSally was represented by the Rutherford Institute in a successful 2001 lawsuit against the Department of Defense, challenging the military policy that required U.S. and U.K. servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the body-covering abaya when traveling off base in the country.[7][8] At the time of the lawsuit McSally, as a Major (O-4), was the highest ranking female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. McSally's suit alleged that "the regulations required her to send the message that she believes women are subservient to men."[9] In addition to the issue of religious garb, McSally noted that policies also included other requirements:

In a "60 Minutes" interview broadcast on CBS on Jan. 20, she described the discrimination she experienced under the policy: "I have to sit in the back and at all times I must be escorted by a male . . . [who], when questioned, is supposed to claim me as his wife," she said. "I can fly a single-seat aircraft in enemy territory, but [in Saudi Arabia] I can't drive a vehicle."[9]

During this process, she was granted audience with several high level officials, including two Secretaries of Defense, William Cohen and Donald Rumsfeld, which was atypical of a service member of her comparatively junior rank and position, especially in light of her public protest. General Tommy Franks, then commander of the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), announced in 2002 that U.S. military servicewomen would no longer be required to wear the abaya, although they would be "encouraged" to do so as a show of respect for local customs.[10] Commenting on the change, Central Command spokesman, Colonel Rick Thomas, said it was not made because of McSally's lawsuit, but had already been "under review" before the lawsuit was filed. News reports noted that McSally had been fighting for a change in the policy for seven years, and had filed the lawsuit after she had been threatened with a court martial if she did not comply and wear the abaya.[11] Critics of the policy noted that while female military personnel had been required to wear the abaya, the situation was not the same for "women diplomats" of the U.S. Department of State assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, who were actually encouraged not to wear the abaya when they were involved in official business, "...because they are representing the United States." Embassy officials stated that, " their personal time, embassy employees can choose how to dress." According to these U.S. officials, "...the Saudi government does not require non-Muslim women to wear a dark robe known as an abaya.... The official guidance, issued by the Saudi Embassy in Washington, says that foreigners should dress conservatively but they are not required to wear the robe."[12]

Eventually the U.S. Congress "approved legislation that prohibited anyone in the military from requiring or encouraging servicewomen to put on abayas in Saudi Arabia or to use taxpayers’ money to buy them."[13]


McSally has continued to speak out about gender relations in Saudi Arabia.[14][15] McSally retired from active duty with 22 years of commissioned service in the U.S. Air Force on May 6, 2010. As of March 2011, she worked as a professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.[16]

2012 U.S. House campaigns[edit]

Candidate Martha McSally with Governor Jan Brewer at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry's 2014 Legislative Forecast Luncheon in Phoenix

On February 9, 2012, McSally announced her candidacy for the special election for Arizona's 8th congressional district vacancy created by the resignation of Gabrielle Giffords. She was an unsuccessful candidate in the Republican nomination for the special election, losing to Republican nominee Jesse Kelly.[17]

McSally then ran for and won the Republican nomination in the regular election for the district, which had been renumbered as the 2nd District. She faced incumbent Democrat Ron Barber and Libertarian nominee Anthony Powell in the November 2012 election.[18] She was endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, United States Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Wholesalers, of Commerce, National Association of Home Builders and Associated Builders and Contractors.[19]

The race was one of the closest in the nation. McSally led on election night by a few hundred votes, but the race was deemed too close to call due to a large number of provisional ballots. Barber eventually overtook McSally as more ballots were counted. By November 16, most of the outstanding ballots were in heavily Democratic precincts near Tucson. The Arizona Republic determined that as a result, McSally would not be able to pick up enough votes to overcome Barber's lead.[20] By November 17, Barber's lead over McSally had grown to 1,400 votes. That day, the Associated Press determined that there weren't enough ballots outstanding for McSally to regain the lead, and called the race for Barber.[21] McSally conceded the race later that morning.[20]

Political positions[edit]

McSally has vowed to vote in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act.[22] She also supports local control of education, stating that, “education for our kids should not be dictated by Washington bureaucrats but by local experts with parent involvement and rewards for excellence. Hard-earned middle-class-taxpayer money should not go to D.C. to strip funds off the top, then return to the states with conditions, paperwork and mandates resulting in cookie-cutter educational recipes."[22][23]

McSally has stated her belief that women around the country are concerned with jobs, affordable healthcare, the future of social security, and education. She appeared on national television in October 2012 saying, "You want to talk about a war on women? Walk in my shoes down the streets of Kabul. Walk in my shoes down the streets of Riyadh; where women have to be covered up. Where they’re stoned, where they’re honor killed if they’ve been raped, where they can’t drive and they can’t travel without the permission of a male relative. That’s a war on women."[24]

Personal life[edit]

McSally was married to Air Force officer Donald F. Henry from 1997 to 1999. The marriage was annulled.[25] McSally is a triathlete.[5]


  1. ^ Air Force Lt. Col. Martha McSally - US Department of Defense Official Website
  2. ^ Barmann, Tim (2012-11-18). "Warwick native McSally loses close race for congressional seat in Arizona". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Center, Shira (2014-08-18). "At the Races — Roll Call's Politics Blog Martha McSally Tries to Fly to Victory". Roll Call. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Martha E. McSally". Washington Times. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Cheakalos, Christina (2-11-2002). "Dress Blues". People Magazine. Retrieved 28 August 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ "Martha McSally (R)". Election 2012. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Valorie Vojdik "The Invisibility of Gender in War", Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, 9 (261), 2002.
  8. ^ John E. Mulligan, "Female pilot sues US, alleging bias", Providence Journal Bulletin, Dec. 5, 2001, at A01
  9. ^ a b Keller, Michele (Spring 2002). "Female Fighter Pilot Battles U.S. Military's Double-Standard in Saudi Arabia". National NOW Times. Retrieved July 16, 2011. 
  10. ^ [1], retrieved July 16, 2011.[dead link]
  11. ^ Russell, Jan Jarboe (January 24, 2002). "Pentagon relents on Arabic dress policy for women". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved July 16, 2011. 
  12. ^ Pound, Edward T. (April 24, 2001). "Saudi rule looser than Pentagon's". USA Today. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  13. ^ De Wind, Dorian (February 21, 2011). "Should our Servicewomen in Afghanistan Have to Wear Headscarves?". The Moderate Voice. Retrieved July 16, 2011. 
  14. ^ Christina Cheakalos et al., Dress Blues; Fighter pilot Martha McSally battles to liberate US servicewomen in Saudi Arabia from a confining cloak, People Magazine interview, Feb. 11, 2002, at 71.
  15. ^ Martha McSally "Should our uniform adapt to their culture?", March 24, 2011.
  16. ^ McSally, Martha, "Should US uniform adapt to Muslim Culture?", Washington Post, reprinted in the Japan Times, 2 March 2011, p. 12.
  17. ^ McCombs, Brady (9 February 2012). "1st Female AF Air Combat Vet in Run for Congress". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  18. ^ "Former Giffords aide beats back primary challenge". KNXV-TV. AP. August 29, 2012. 
  19. ^ McSally, Martha (2012-10-19). "My commitment: Solutions to get people working again". Inside Tucson Business. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  20. ^ a b Nowicki, Dan; D'Anna, Jon. Barber wins hard-fought race against McSally. The Arizona Republic, 2012-11-17.
  21. ^ AP: Voters in Arizona's 2nd pick Barber over McSally. Associated Press via KOLD-TV, 2012-11-17.
  22. ^ a b "Martha McSally". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  23. ^ McSally, Martha (2012-10-21). "Question from Ron Barber to McSally". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  24. ^ Lopez, Kathryn Jean (2012-10-25). "A ‘War on Women’ Education". National Review. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  25. ^ Powers Hannley, Pamela (2012-10-31). "'Sham' Marriage Allegations Arise Against Arizona Congressional Candidate Col. Martha McSally". Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 

External links[edit]