By Adam Jablonowski
The Daily Caller
Col. Martha McSally sat down with The Daily Caller last week to discuss her Air Force career and her campaign to represent Arizona's 8th Congressional District — the district previously represented by Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned earlier this year to focus on recovering from injuries suffered during a Jan. 2011 assassination attempt.
McSally was deployed to Kuwait in 1995, where she became the first woman to fly in combat and command a fighter squadron. Her assignments in the Middle East included enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq and carrying out Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
While stationed in Saudi Arabia, she led the charge to remove restrictions on U.S. military women abroad, including Department of Defense policies that forced American women to wear Muslim garb and be escorted by males while in the Middle East.
McSally described the discrimination she felt overseas to TheDC.
"I'd have to sit in the back and at all times, I must be escorted by a male who, if asked, is supposed to say I'm his wife," McSally said.
"I can fly a single-seat aircraft in hostile territory, but in Saudi Arabia I can't drive a vehicle," she added.
In 2001, she faced a court martial for refusing to wear an abaya, a traditional Muslim garb that female service members were sometimes required to wear while serving in Saudi Arabia. In 2002, "60 Minutes" covered the case, and McSally briefly became something of a celebrity.
McSally won her lawsuit, and in 2002 the Defense Department announced it would no longer require women in the military to wear the abaya.
In 2005, McSally and her squadron were awarded the prestigious David C. Schilling Award for "the most outstanding contribution in the field of flight."
The experience she gained in challenging DOD regulations will allow for a seamless transition into Congress if elected, she told TheDC.
The special election to fill the seat vacated by Giffords will be held in June. McSally, who is seeking office as a Republican, also plans to run again in the fall, regardless of the June election's outcome. (RELATED: Giffords resigns House seat to focus on recovery)
McSally emphasized her belief in the importance of border security to TheDC. If elected, she said she pledges to concentrate on defending America from its "closest threat."
"[The] transnational criminal organizations that are just south of us, trafficking weapons, people, money and drugs into our neighborhoods," she singled out as a priority. "They now have a presence in 1,000 cities and their supply is running through the district."
The congressional hopeful also aims to reduce the federal government's power over people's lives and the economy.
McSally believes she has the leadership and moral courage to make things happen for her district. And if the colonel is as successful in seeking election to Congress as she was in combat, she might well become a politician to watch.