Lt. Col. Martha McSally

Pilot : A-10/OA-10 Thunderbolt II [Warthog]. First woman in the US Air Force to fly a combat aircraft into enemy territory

mcsally_1_200.jpg Lt. Col. Martha McSally

The youngest of five children reared in Warwick, R.I., McSally was just 12 when her father, Bernard, a lawyer, died of a heart attack.

Her mother, Eleanor, now 67, became a reading specialist to support the family. Determined to "make my father proud," McSally graduated at the top of her class at St. Mary's Academy Bayview in 1984.

She won a scholarship to the U.S. Air Force Academy and turned up on the first day dressed in black spandex pants, a T-shirt and high-top sneakers. Soon, she says, she was "pestering" her instructors to make her a fighter pilot--despite the military's ban on women flying combat jets.

She clung to her dream after graduating in 1988, even as she studied for a master's degree from Harvard University's School of Public Policy. And when the Defense Department opened the cockpit to seven women in 1993, McSally was among them.

Further Reading

Lt. Col. Martha McSally

U.S. Military Women Cast Off Abayas

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