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Martha  McSally

Martha McSally

Courageous Pioneer & Combat-Proven Leader

Martha McSally

Courageous Pioneer & Combat-Proven Leader


Colonel Martha E. McSally is a pioneering combat-proven leader and celebrated author. McSally is a compelling example of overcoming adversity and fear to achieve extraordinary feats.

Losing her dad at the age of 12 and surviving sexual abuse and assault, she persevered to become the 1st woman in U.S. history to fly a fighter jet in combat and command a fighter squadron in combat.

Along her journey, McSally had to overcome significant obstacles including U.S. law prohibiting women from flying combat jets. She persevered, held onto her dreams, continued to excel, and shattered glass ceilings.

Speaker Videos

Agility and Risk Management

Cleared for Take Off!

One Step at a Time

Courage to Move Mountains

Speech Topics

Cleared for Takeoff! How to Overcome Fear, Build Exceptional Teams, and Be Agile & Resilient in a Turbulent World

COVID-19, cyber-attacks, disasters, what’s next? With so much uncertainty in the world, it has been a challenging few years to say the least. Colonel McSally is no stranger to challenges and is deeply impacting audiences through masterful storytelling and actionable takeaways to help your team thrive and succeed.

As the first woman in U.S. history to fly a fighter jet in combat and command a fighter squadron in combat, Colonel (ret) McSally has proven she has the right stuff to survive and excel in high-pressure, high-risk, dynamic environments. This pioneering A-10 pilot is also an endurance athlete, mountain climber, and sexual assault survivor who tragically lost her father at 12. In her extraordinary life filled with triumphs, tragedies, successes and setbacks, McSally authentically inspires and more importantly shows us how to be vulnerable, persevere, overcome fear, be resilient, and soar to our full potential.

McSally has the uncanny ability to emotionally connect with any audience. Through humor, transparency, and edge of your seat storytelling, she brings you into the A-10 cockpit for her most complex and dangerous mission and through her devasting traumas that are all too common. McSally’s raw approach connects people with their own fears and trials and provides a realistic and optimistic flight plan to build courage, trusted teams, and a resilient mindset.

In this awe-inspiring program, Colonel McSally equips your team with step-by-step guidance to choose courage, create a “wingman” mentality, and have a mindset of agility to overcome adversities and succeed in an uncertain world.

Martha’s Bronze Star Leadership Lessons: How to Inspire & Equip Your Team to Thrive and Win

Colonel McSally knows a thing or two about leadership! As the first women in U.S. to command a fighter squadron in combat, she oversaw $500M in assets and $40M in annual resources and was responsible to deploy her unit of 24 A-10s and hundreds of personnel worldwide with just 24-hours’ notice. She earned the Bronze Star for her combat-proven leadership and led her squadron in earning the Air Force Association David C. Shilling Award for the best contribution to national defense.

McSally was also deployed to Saudi Arabia on 9/11 and became a key leader in planning and executing initial air operations in Afghanistan. As a Colonel, she was hand-picked as initial cadre to stand up U.S. Africa Command from scratch, building a complex organization with limited time and resources. She then led oversight of all African continent operations, including counterterrorism and disaster relief. This experience built on her expertise in strategic planning, process creation/improvement, knowledge management, logistics, and operations.

In this gripping presentation using real life combat stories, McSally shares her combat-tested lessons in leadership that will equip any leader to succeed in any environment.

These lessons can be tailored for what your team needs to focus on most, but can include:

  • Setting clear mission, vision, and core values
  • Creating a culture of meritocracy, comradery, and integrity
  • Empowering and entrusting your team
  • Accountability, brutally honest feedback, and debriefing
  • Communication strategies to ensure shared understanding and buy-in
  • Don’t walk by a problem
  • Successfully managing change

Don’t Walk by a Problem! One Person Can Truly Make a Difference

discriminatory policies towards servicewomen deployed to Saudi Arabia—and won. Her incredible David vs Goliath story shows how through perseverance, moral courage, sacrifice, creativity, and faith, she was able to eventually prevail getting a law unanimously passed as a private citizen to overturn these demeaning policies.

In this inspiring presentation, McSally shares her harrowing story of being willing to sacrifice her skyrocketing military career to do the right thing for others. She provides her audience with practical lessons she learned along the way that can apply to anyone who wants to make a difference.

These include:

  • Do your research—change agents often take on Quixotic causes emotionally without knowing all the facts. Before you go charging up that hill, do extensive research on what you are trying to change. Is it law, policy, folklore? Where is it written down? Who is the signature block on it? Why was it created in the first place and have conditions changed? Build your case and credibility.
  • Do the Next Right Thing—When trying to be a change agent, it can sometimes be a long, persevering journey. Throughout the process, when at any decision points, always ask yourself what is the next right thing to do.
  • If not me, who? Don’t walk by a problem. In life, your community or company, if you see something that is wrong, don’t walk by it. Don’t be a bystander. Be willing to stand up for others and what is right, even if it is uncomfortable and could come with sacrifice. You can always look yourself in the mirror. McSally shares the inspiring story and quote that kept pushing her for those 8 years: “Can it be that you were put in this position for such a time as this?”
  • Be creative—McSally tried to get the executive branch to change the policy and years later went to the judicial and then the legislative branches. Come up with a plan but be flexible and creative about new ways to solve the problem.

Climb that Mountain One Step at a Time! How to Tackle Big Challenges & Reach the Summit

Colonel McSally is a three-time national military triathlon champion, has run over a dozen marathons, and two Ironman triathlons including the grueling Hawaii Ironman, where she won the women’s military division and finished 12th in the world in her age group. McSally has coached many people, including those who struggled to run 1.5 miles, to complete their first marathon. She has also climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Blanc, and hiked rim to rim of the Grand Canyon. McSally had the history making honor to mentor the 1st 30 women officers to serve in the Botswana military. She helped them prepare for the mental and physical rigors of their pioneering journey and learned at least as much from them as she poured into their lives.

Through these extreme athletic endeavors and unique opportunities, McSally learned many life lessons about how to tackle really big challenges that seem insurmountable. Through humor, humility, and inspiration, McSally shares actionable nuggets on how to cross the finish line and reach the summit. These lessons include: planning and preparing, keystone habits to set you up for success, get to the first water station, and tap your misery database.

Faith to Move Mountains: Finding Your Faith to Sustain You Through Trials & Triumphs

Martha McSally is a woman of deep faith, but it wasn’t always that way. Growing up in a Christian family, she went to church but she felt like she was just going though rituals. Losing her dad suddenly at age 12 turned her life upside down and she started to question everything. She was then sexually abused by a coach she trusted as a naïve, fatherless, teenage. She wrestled deeply with grief, loss, violation, betrayal, and this difficult journey eventually led her to a deep personal relationship with God.

McSally’s faith has protected her in combat and in the darkest valleys of her life. It convicted her to take on the Pentagon (in an 8-year battle which she won) for making U.S. servicewomen wear Muslim garb when deployed to Saudi Arabia. It has healed her from the deepest wounds that only God can heal and challenged her to achieve great victories and follow her calling.

In this raw, inspiring presentation, McSally will authentically share her faith journey and nuggets of wisdom she has learned (sometimes the hard way) along the way. She will make you laugh, cry, and leave with a renewed hope for your future, wherever you are in life. McSally will inspire you to follow your calling and convictions to conquer giants and cross raging seas. You will never be the same again after this encounter!