3. JOURNAL A-Z List

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project


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Linda Bray of Butner, North Carolina, served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1991, and during the Panama Invasion, she was the first female to lead troops into combat.


Oral History and 50 photocopies of letters to Bray, 75 photocopies of newspapers and magazine clippings about Bray.


Linda Bray was born in Sanford, North Carolina, and raised in Butner. After graduating from South Granville High School in Creedmoor, North Carolina, she enrolled at Western Carolina University. She joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in 1981 and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Bray graduated with a degree in criminal justice in 1982, but returned in 1983 to earn a military science degree and qualify for direct commission.

In the summer of 1983, Bray attended Officer Basic Course at Fort McClellan, Alabama, before being assigned to a special weapons depot in Siegelsbach, Germany, in November 1983. There she served as an MP (military police) and later became the operations manager of the depot. She met Randy Bray her first week there, and they were married two years later. She returned to the U.S. in 1987 and completed Officer’s Advanced Class and Provost Marshal’s Class at Fort McClellan. She and her husband were then stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, where she served as a training officer for the Officer Candidate School. When she fractured her hips on a road march, she briefly served as a personnel officer during her recovery. After being cleared for duty in 1988, Bray was given command of the 988th MP Company. The next year the unit was given orders to deploy to Panama, which they did in December 1989.

A few days later, during the Invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) Bray became the first woman to lead US troops in battle. She commanded a unit to fire on soldiers of the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) who refused to surrender their positions at a dog kennel which was concealing a large weapons cache. Publicity surrounding Bray's participation in the operation brought the issue of women in combat to the forefront of public opinion. Controversy flew in the press, Congress, the Department of Defense and the public as Bray swirled at the epicenter.

Bray’s company returned to the U.S. in April 1990, but in August she required an additional hip surgery and was offered a medical discharge. Frustrated by an aggressive investigation into her unit's actions in Panama and with a performance review she found unfairly discriminatory, she accepted the discharge in early 1991, and her husband also resigned from the army.

After leaving the service she began writing a yet to be completed book on her experiences. When the Department of Homeland Security was formed in 2002, she helped train people in screening job applicants. She is currently a realtor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Army unit with Al D'Amato, 1990
Item # WV0432.6.002
From the Linda L. Bray Papers
Linda L. Bray and Al D'Amato, 1990
Item # WV0432.6.003
From the Linda L. Bray Papers
Oral history interview with Linda L. Bray, 2008
Item # wv0432.5.001
From the Linda L. Bray Papers