Linda L. Bray
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Linda L. Bray
Linda L. Bray
Capt. Linda L. Bray.jpg
Bray in 1990
Born1960 (age 59–60)
OccupationU.S. Army Captain
Years active1982-1991
Known forFirst woman to lead troops into combat

Linda L. Bray (born 1960)[1] was a U.S. Army officer known for being the first woman in the military to lead troops into combat. She served in the Panama Invasion and during the Cold War. Bray's career started in 1982 and ended with her retirement in 1991.

Early life

Bray was born in Sanford, North Carolina, and raised in Butner. She graduated from South Granville High School in Creedmoor, North Carolina. She attended Western Carolina University, where she joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) in 1981. Bray graduated with a degree in criminal justice in 1982, but returned in 1983 to earn a military science degree and fulfill her ROTC requirement. She qualified for direct commission.[2]



Bray enrolled in Western Carolina University's ROTC program on May 15, 1983. In June 1983, she was commissioned a second lieutenant.

From November 1983 - 1987 Bray served with the 56th Military Police Company in West Germany. After that she began her training to be a training officer and then eventually became a personnel officer.[3]

Bray was an active military member during the Cold War from 1983-1991.[3]

Panama invasion

Linda Bray was the first female combat officer to lead U.S. troops in battle, in 1989.[4]

From December 1989 to April 1990 Bray was deployed to Panama for Operation Just Cause as commander of the 988th Military Police Company.[5] President Bush ordered the Panama Invasion when one a U.S. soldier was shot down at a road block. The reason for the invasion was to overthrow Panama's President at the time, Manuel Noriega.[6]

Bray and her platoon's objective was to neutralize an attack-dog kennel on the periphery of Panama City.[5] They were armed with machine guns and grenade launchers.[5] The kennel turned out to be heavily defended by Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF).[7] Her team used a bullhorn to tell them to surrender and also fired warning shots.[5] When their warnings went unheeded, they opened fire. The PDF returned it. The battle lasted three hours before the kennel was secured.[5] Her team killed three and captured one prisoner. Several of the attack dogs were also killed during the battle.[5]

At the time, women were barred from serving in combat roles.[7] The team she led included both men and women.[7]

It was an important military operation. A woman led it, and she did an outstanding job. --Marlin FItzwater, White House spokesperson[7]

She was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Valor.[8]


The news about Bray was on the cover of many newspapers during the Panama Invasion. She claimed to have been surprised to see attention focused on her gender, rather than showcasing the accomplishments of the troops. This caused issues for her career and led to debates over women's rights in the military.[4][9][10]

As a result of experiences of women in Operation Just Cause, Rep. Patricia Schroeder drafted legislation (H.R. 3868) that would allow women to serve in combat on a test basis.[11][12] It did not pass.[8] This fueled the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule issued by the Department of Defense in 1994. It excluded women from engaging in combat.[13] It wasn't until January 24, 2013 that this rule was rescinded by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.[14] Bray said she was "thrilled" and "excited" when the ban was lifted. "I think it's absolutely wonderful that our nation's military is taking steps to help women break the glass ceiling."[8]


Bray retired from the Army on April 16, 1991 due to a noncombat injury. She injured herself during training, around the time She needed surgery for her hips. She claimed it was her fault because she carried too much weight during a training exercise.[3]

Personal life

She married John Raymond "Randy" Bray III on December 6, 1983, whom she met while stationed in Germany.[2] Bray is currently a recruiter in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.[15]


  1. ^ Bell, Jerri; Crow, Tracy (2017). It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 242. ISBN 9781612348315.
  2. ^ a b "Oral history interview with Linda L. Bray, 2008 :: Women Veterans Historical Project". Retrieved .
  3. ^ a b c "Veteran Tributes". Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b "Combat Controversy Destroyed Her Career Says Linda Bray". Minerva's Bulletin Board. IV, Iss. 2: 4. June 1991. ProQuest 231075004.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ring, Wilson (3 January 1990). "Woman Led U.S. Troops into Battle: Captain's Platoon Took PDF Target". The Washington Post. p. A01.
  6. ^ "The U.S. invades Panama". HISTORY. February 9, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d Gordon, Michael R. (4 January 1990). "For First Time, a Woman Leads G.I.'s in Combat". The New York Times. p. A13.
  8. ^ a b c Associated, The (2013-01-25). "Linda Bray, first woman to lead in combat, 'thrilled' with change (photos)". Retrieved .
  9. ^ Ruffin, Ingrid (2009). Woman, Warrior: The Story of Linda Bray and an Analysis of Female War Veterans in the American Media (PDF). Greensboro, NC.
  10. ^ "Detail". Retrieved .
  11. ^ Moore, Molly (4 January 1990). "Combat Role To Be Sought For Women: Panama Experience Prompts Schroeder". The Washington Post. p. A25.
  12. ^ Schroeder, Patricia (1990-01-26). "H.R.3868 - 101st Congress (1989-1990): To direct the Secretary of the Army to carry out a four-year test program to examine the implications of the removal of limitations on the assignment of female members of the Army to combat and combat-support positions". Retrieved .
  13. ^ Aspin, Les (13 January 1994). "Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule" (PDF). Government Executive. Retrieved 2019.
  14. ^ "Department of Defense opens ground combat roles to female servicemembers". Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Linda Bray". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2019.

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