1st woman to lead in combat 'thrilled' with change

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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.

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