Linda Bray was a Captain in the US Military Police who became the first woman to lead US troops in battle.
Bray commanded a unit of 45 soldiers in the 988th Military Police Company during the US invasion of Panama in 1989. During this time a routine mission went awry when her unit encountered a unit of Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) stationed at a dog kennel. The 40-odd PDF troops refused to surrender their position, leading to a firefight that lasted 3 hours.
Eventually Bray’s unit took the kennel and forced the PDF into retreat, having killed 3 PDF soldiers and taken 1 prisoner while suffering no casualties of their own. Judging by the money, uniforms and arsenal of weapons discovered within the kennels, it is assumed that it was in fact a Special Ops base for the PDF.
Instead of being praised for her actions, Bray came under serious criticism by her superiors as military police are supposed to be non-combative. “The responses of my superior officers were very degrading, like, `What were you doing there?’” Bray later said. “A lot of people couldn’t believe what I had done, or did not want to believe it."
Disenchanted by her experiences, Bray requested to be discharged from the army. She received the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, an award for non-combative service, but the Army refused to grant the Combat Infantryman Badge to her and other female soldiers who fought in Panama.
Her actions sparked a controversial proposal in US congress that women should be able to perform all roles within the US army, which was ultimately defeated. When similar legislation was successfully passed more recently in 2013, Bray stated that she was "thrilled”.