Friday, February 3, 2012

CD8 Special Election: Who's Martha McSally and Why Are People Saying She Might Run for Congress?

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2012 at 5:54 PM

After a week that saw the expected entries of Republicans Frank Antenori, Dave Sitton and Jesse Kelly into the CD8 special election to fill Gabrielle Giffords' empty seat, there's buzz that a fourth Republican might get into the April 17 GOP primary: Martha McSally.

The name didn't ring a bell for us, but she's got an impressive bio on her Facebook page:

Colonel Martha McSally was a pilot in the United States Air Force. She was the first American woman to fly in combat since the 1991 lifting of the prohibition of women in combat. 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. McSally is an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot.

Military career

McSally graduated from St. Mary Academy - Bay View and then the United States Air Force Academy in 1988. She earned a Master's degree from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She earned her wings at Laughlin AFB, Texas and was initially assigned as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) in the T-37. She was selected for Lead-in Fighter Training (LIFT) in 1993, completed the Replacement Training Unit for the A-10 Thunderbolt II, was assigned to an operational A-10 squadron and was deployed to Kuwait in January 1995. During that deployment, she flew combat patrol over Iraq under Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the no-fly zone. In 2000, she reported to Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a temporary assignment in support of Operation Southern Watch. In July 2004, she took command of the A-10 equipped 354th Fighter Squadron, and was subsequently deployed to Afghanistan under Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, where she employed weapons 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.

McSally is not a household name and time is short: Signatures for the race are due by Feb. 27. Money will be hard to raise. (We hear Dave Sitton is doing well in that department, while Antenori is struggling to pull in dollars.) On the other hand, getting into a race like this could do wonders for your name ID and maybe even put you in a position in the upcoming regular election later this year...

Here's part of a story about McSally challenging the requirement that she dress in Muslim garb while serving in Saudi Arabia from 60 Minutes:

McSally, one of the few women on track to make general in the armed forces, says the dress code requires female military personnel to dress while off the base in “host nation attire” - a traditional Muslim head-to-toe garment called an abaya. This is unconstitutional, she says, because military men are not required to dress like local men.

“This is where we separate our men from our women and we demean and humiliate just them,” she tells Stahl.

The Pentagon says the policy is to protect American troops from harassment and possible terrorist attacks and to be sensitive to the customs of Saudi Arabia, where some 5,000 military men and women are stationed.

It’s foolish, says McSally, because a male must accompany women at all times off base, a male with crew-cut hair and western clothes that make the Americans glaringly obvious anyway.

Also demeaning, she says, is the fact that only men can drive vehicles, according to policy. “And then I have to sit in the back and at all times I must be escorted by a male…that, when questioned, is supposed to claim me as his wife,” McSally tells Stahl.

“I can fly a single-seat aircraft in enemy territory, but I can’t drive a vehicle… They turned me into a fighter pilot. This is who I am. When I see something messed up, I’m going to challenge it.”

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