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Linda Bray

Captain, U.S. Army (Retired)

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How Linda Bray decided to join the army and took command of her platoon, changing the military forever.
Captain Linda Bray was the first woman to lead US troops into battle, during the invasion of Panama in 1989. In 1982, she joined the ROTC. In 83, she was assigned to duty in Germany, where she guarded the Special Weapons Depot as a military policewoman. After she came back to the States, in 1988, Bray took command of her Military Police Company. In 1989 they were deployed to Panama. While there, she led a force of 30 MPs through a firefight to capture a kennel holding Panamanian Defense Force guard dogs and, it was discovered, a cache of enemy weapons. This groundbreaking event led to a big debate at the time. Congress questioned whether women should be allowed to take leadership positions (or do anything, for that matter) on the battlefield.   With Bray’s performance under fire as an example, Congresswoman Pat Schroeder introduced a bill that would officially allow U.S. military women to serve in combat roles. The bill died when top generals lobbied against it, arguing that female soldiers couldn’t handle the physical challenges of combat. But in January 2013, the Pentagon’s prohibition against women serving in ground combat finally ended, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted women were integral to the military’s success.  

More From Linda

Do I Fire? Do I Not Fire?
During the invasion of Panama, it was unclear who was a civilian and who would be a violent force.

You Can't Rewind it
When you’re in a war zone, you have no concept of time.

Sit Wait Listen, Don't Overreact
On her 30th birthday, Linda Bray was guarding a vital bridge.

What Am I Going to Do?
Linda Bray was told to “keep her head down.”

Misery and Agony
Linda Bray on the side effects of basic training.

Hold On to the Stick and Walk
Linda Bray remembers the obstacle course candidates had to complete.

Women on the First Floor
How the commanders settled unfairness in the bunks.

Don't Do It Again Next Time
The lessons Linda Bray has learned from taking risks.

You're All In For It
Linda Bray’s father taught her the importance of helping people.

Waiting for the Big One
Why Linda Bray loves fishing.

But You're a Woman
Linda Bray remembers how the interviews started.

I'm Going to Do Alright
The conversation Linda Bray had with her husband while in Panama.