“Here I was teaching people from other countries how to build democracies, get more women participating in government decision-making, and I realized that I needed to put my money where my mouth is and be part of the solution right here at home.”
— Martha McSally on why she is running for Congress
Palladian View’s mission includes spotlighting women and issues, building the next generation and giving women a platform to see their voice.
Each week we showcase a conservative woman running for office in our Woman in the Lens article. This week’s featured woman was so inspirational; we wanted to share her with you too.
Col. (Ret) USAF Martha McSally running for Congress in Arizona’s 2nd District was the first woman fighter pilot to fly in combat and the first woman to lead a squadron in combat.
Martha McSally served 26 years in the US Air Force. If she wins her Congressional seat, she will once again take the oath to protect and defend the US Constitution.
I had the privilege of phone interviewing Martha last week.
In your video, you talk about how your dad’s death when you were 12 years old impacted your life.
Yes, it changed me. My dad told me to “make him proud” in a conversation at the hospital (that I really didn’t know would be our last). Those three words made me a lasting impression on this grief-stricken, but absolutely driven young person.
Tell us about how you became a fighter pilot.
As I started in the Air Force Academy, I really didn’t want to fly; I had been motion sick as a kid. I actually thought I might want to be a doctor—probably because of my dad—but it ended up that I had outgrown the motion sickness and I wouldn’t have made a good doctor.
When I was in the Air Force Academy, people would ask what I wanted to be. A fighter pilot! I think I was motivated mostly by the fact that I “couldn’t”; it was against the law. Here I was going through the same “warrior” training as the guys, and the only reason I couldn’t be a fighter pilot was because of my gender. I always believed the policy would be changed. I would tell my friends that we live in a democracy, and in a democracy, laws change.
What was it like to lead a squadron in combat?
There is nothing like being in command of a unit responsible for a combat mission. It was humbling to be selected. I was the commander of a unit that would be called and had to be anywhere in the world within 24 hours.
I was responsible for the training of the unit, the mission, and the aircraft—one of only five active duty A10 squadrons in the world.
As their commander, I was responsible for 27 aircraft worth about $10 Million each, the combat pilots—their lives, the mission, the assets, the training (having them ready and in the right mindset). It was a complex world. For instance, in Afghanistan, it was a conflict environment—you had friendlies, enemies, and civilians together—and we had to make hard decisions of when or when not to use fire power. I had the extraordinary opportunity to lead and work with amazing people.
You challenged and successfully overturned a military policy requiring all U.S. servicewomen to wear a Muslim Abaya and headscarf when off base in Saudi Arabia.
It was an 8-year process. I would tell them that I had been trained as a warrior. If it was that dangerous, don’t give me an abaya, give me a 9 mm.
When I filed McSally v. Rumsfeld, I was in the top 2% of people in line to be a General. I was actually sent to Saudi Arabia, and threatened with court martial if I didn’t comply with that requirement; I complied. I remember, as an officer—and their superior—riding in the backseat (not driving) in a car because Saudi women didn’t drive. On December 2, 2002, the law was passed with bipartisan support.
Palladian View has launched Her New View, an initiative to build the next generation of conservative women leaders. What advice would you give young women considering a career in the military?
There are probably many similarities in military and political careers. Take your oath of office seriously. Memorize it. This is not a career or a job; it is a calling. Know why you are there, that you are called to be there—to support and defend the Constitution. Stay grounded in that. Whatever technical field you are in, do it with excellence and honor. Teamwork and focus is gender-neutral. People coming together to accomplish a mission is gender-neutral.
Why are you running for Congress?
Americans are ready for elected officials with moral leadership and courage. My experience makes me uniquely qualified to serve in this capacity, and I am stepping up to the plate.
To read more about Martha McSally’s Congressional race, or to donate to her campaign, click here. Join her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/McSallyForCongress.
Palladian View is pleased to spotlight this conservative Republican woman warrior who served her country with honor and distinction and makes us proud to be Americans.
LaDonna Ryggs, Chairman of the Spartanburg County Republican Party, is Managing Editor for Palladian View, a digital magazine for the conservative Republican women.