February 22, 2012
By Elise Cooper
Colonel Martha McSally, a Republican candidate running for Gabby Giffords' former congressional seat, has an interesting and highly decorated past. In January 1995, she became the first woman in U.S. history to fly a combat aircraft into enemy territory when she flew her initial mission into Iraq to help enforce the United Nations' "no-fly zone." She was part of the team that helped plan and execute the U.S. air operations over Afghanistan shortly after 9/11.
In July 2004, McSally took command of the 354th Fighter Squadron, becoming the first woman in U.S. history to command a combat aviation unit. While defending her country she has received numerous honors, including being recognized by the University of Arizona and "Women Who Lead," in addition to receiving the Tucson YWCA Women on the Move Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Center on Women in Policing. American Thinker interviewed her about her fascinating career and why she decided to run for the seat previously held by Congresswoman Giffords.
Her no-nonsense attitude came across loud and clear while she described her uphill battle with the Pentagon. In 1995, McSally became aware of the U.S. military policy requiring U.S. servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the Muslim garment called an abaya, a black head-to-toe robe that signifies women's subordination to men. They had to wear it over their uniform while on duty as well as off duty. In 2000, it became personal when McSally was deployed to Saudi Arabia and was told that either she must submit to it or be charged with insubordination.
In 2001-2002, a lawsuit was filed and a bill was brought before Congress so women would not have to wear the Muslim clothing. Ten days after the bill was drafted, it passed unanimously in the House and Senate. McSally made sure that as part of the law, all U.S. servicewomen deployed in Saudi Arabia were given a copy of the legislation. A lesson learned that she hopes to carry to Congress: it is important to fight for American values since this was "constitutionally wrong. People that were not of the Muslim faith were forced to wear Muslim garb, the American taxpayer was financing this, and it affected our military order, discipline, and effectiveness."
During a Fox TV interview last week, McSally was asked about Senator Rick Santorum's comment that the easing of rules allowing women into combat positions could compromise the interests of the mission because of "other types of emotions that are involved." Her no-nonsense response: "I wanted to kick him in the jimmy." When asked about it, she told American Thinker, "This policy change only lines up on paper what is actually happening in reality. Women are already alongside men on the front lines. It appears Senator Santorum is uninformed. It's amazing to me that we are having these discussions twenty-five years after I flew in a fighter squadron. It's an insult to those serving our country -- not just the women, but also to the men to say they would become distracted and not able to focus on the mission. That is the least thing on your mind when you are under fire with your life at stake. You become a team focusing on the mission. I hope to sit down and speak with the senator when he comes here since I experienced, wrote about, and studied this issue."
That is exactly what is needed in Congress: someone who will shake up the current attitude. McSally sympathizes with those "out there that are frustrated with Washington, D.C. They feel that Washington doesn't represent them. I am hoping to empower them to get involved again. I am not the type of person who will go along to get along. We may not agree on all the issues, but I hope that I will be trusted to make measured and thoughtful responses."
Her general stand on a few of the issues comes across the same way she conducted herself in battle: pragmatic and objective.
The debt, according to McSally, "has to be reined in. We can't keep spending more than we have. I am a fiscal conservative. I support a balanced budget amendment. This is not politics; it is math. There must be a measured look at what we spend our money on. We can't run the well dry."
To secure the border, "we will need to apply tactical, operational, and strategic methods. There are criminal organizations that are coming here threatening the security of our citizens. They traffic people, money, weapons, and drugs. We need an intelligence-driven operation since it is a national security issue. Look at how much we spent on this issue compared to the war in Afghanistan; it is literally a rounding error. They are both national security threats, but this one is in our neighborhood. If we can track a terrorist through the mountains of Pakistan, we can certainly track a 'drug mule' on our border."
The Second Amendment: "I am a very strong supporter of the right to bear and keep arms. It is a constitutional right. I do own my own weapon."
States' rights or federal rights: McSally favors states' rights since "[t]he federal government has failed to do its job. It has not secured the border and has overreached with many issues. SB 1070 came about because the federal government did not secure our border. Perhaps it should be changed so that every citizen stopped by law enforcement needs to prove their citizenship. There was a definite overreach with ObamaCare. I would vote to repeal it. However, we still need to focus on bringing down the cost of health care."