U.S. Army Capt. Linda L. Bray in her home on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Clemmons, N.C. During the invasion of Panama in 1989, Bray became the first woman to lead US troops in battle. Commander of the 988th Military Police, she engaged in a firefight with elite Panamanian Special Forces unit inside a military barracks and dog kennel. Framed on the wall are awards and unit patches she collected while serving. (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)
Updated: January 28, 2013 9:14AM
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The first woman to lead U.S. troops in combat says she’s thrilled the Pentagon has changed a policy that banned other women from the battlefield.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban Thursday on women serving in direct combat roles, more than 23 years after then-U.S. Army Capt. Linda Bray led 45 military police officers in a firefight during the invasion of Panama.
Bray says her male superiors couldn’t believe what she had done and questioned why she had left the safety of a command post to join her soldiers in battle. Lauded by the White House, her actions sparked a heated debate in Congress over whether women belonged in combat.
Now that the ban is lifted, Bray says she hopes women sent to war will forge stronger partnerships with their male colleagues.