Breaking the Barrier

Retired Marine Amy McGrath, the first female fighter pilot to fly an FA/18 in combat mission, on inspiring women to be the leaders we need.
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Amy McGrath

US Naval Aviation Training Air Wing 6 Winging Ceremony:
Speaker Amy McGrath addresses naval flight officers at Training Air Wing 6, which trains America’s future naval aviators and flight officers.

Program Topics

  • Inspiring Women to Be the Leaders We Need

    When Amy McGrath was ten years old, she decided to pursue a dream of becoming a fighter pilot. Though women were not allowed to fly in combat at that time, McGrath’s resolve remained, and she eventually became one of the first women ever to perform in combat roles in the Marine Corps. After 24 years of military service and two political campaigns under her belt, McGrath now speaks to audiences across the country about the important role of women in positions of leadership, as well as the necessity for women with service backgrounds to pursue elected office. In a deeply personal and rousing talk, she reflects on seeing firsthand the integration of women into high level military roles, urging younger women to be part of that continued change. McGrath addresses the acute challenges women and families on active duty face today, sharing about her own familial journey and what can be done to overcome these struggles. As the founder of Honor Bound, Inc., McGrath also speaks directly to women who have served and provides them with the tools, know-how, and confidence to run for office. Offering up her own experiences running two nationally recognized campaigns—and detailing both the successes and failures she experienced—McGrath emboldens women to forge their own paths and make impactful change in politics and society.

  • Honor Bound: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Daring

    Amy McGrath has dedicated her life to service. Her military training and participation in operations all around the world, including in the Middle East and the Pacific, have afforded McGrath a firsthand look at the power of strong leadership and the importance of courage despite the odds. McGrath tells her story in this eye-opening lecture, from her early life spent dreaming of becoming a fighter pilot, to eventually flying in combat and working with allies and partners across the globe. She discusses being successful in one of the toughest organizations in the country—the U.S. Marine Corps—and then applying that same drive for success to her two nationally recognized political campaigns. With her signature presence, McGrath shares her insightful lessons on service, leadership, and honor in all aspects of life.

  • National Security and the State of Our Democracy

    With vast experience working on the Hill as a Marine fellow to Congress, teaching at the U.S. Naval Academy, and specializing in global security, Amy McGrath can speak to the unique security challenges and political threats we face in America. Whether it be our foreign policy and state-related threats, the national security concerns posed during and after the Capitol riots, or the threat of climate change, McGrath’s singular voice helps audiences understand where we are as a country and what obstacles we continue to face.

Honor Bound

Honor Bound: An American Story of Dreams and Service

The inspiring story of the first female Marine to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18—and the transformative events that led to her bold decision to take on the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate.

Amy McGrath grew up in Edgewood, Kentucky, a childhood shaped by love of country, baseball (the Cincinnati Reds), and, from the age of twelve, a fascination with fighter jets. Her devastation at learning that a federal law prohibited women from flying in combat fueled her determination to do just that–and then, to help change the laws to improve the lives of all Americans.

McGrath writes of gaining an appointment in high school to the U.S. Naval Academy, making it through Marine Corps training, graduating from Annapolis, Maryland, becoming a Second Lieutenant, and raising her right hand to swear to defend the U.S. Constitution, honor bound.

She vividly recounts her experiences flying in the Marines, and her combat deployments to Iraq (Kuwait) and Afghanistan, her work as an Air Combat Tactics instructor—and what it was like to finally fly that fighter jet: high-speed, intense, and physically demanding.

Here is McGrath, training to do the most intense tactical flying there is (think the Navy’s TOPGUN ); meeting the man who would become her husband; being promoted to major and then lieutenant colonel; marrying, having three children, a career and life in Washington and then moving her family back to Kentucky to begin a whole new chapter in politics; her roller-coaster congressional campaign (she lost by three percentage points); and making the tough decision to run again, in an even bigger, higher-stakes national campaign, against the five-term leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell.

A moving, inspiring American story of courage, determination, and large dreams.

Honor Bound

“Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath, whose first call sign was ‘Guns’, lays out in her candid and compelling book what it takes to swing for the fences, bust down barriers, and serve with honor.”

—Rye Barcott, author of It Happened on the Way to War; co-founder and CEO, With Honor

“One of the most compelling stories of modern military service and leadership by example, this book is guaranteed to inspire every American to live lives of service. Amy’s story is an example to us all about living with true American values in an extremely partisan and less than honorable political time in our country’s history. She truly is my hero!”

—General John Allen, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.), former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan

“A former Marine reflects on marriage, motherhood, military culture, and politics . . . McGrath recounts a career marked by determination, grit, and admirable accomplishments . . . A straightforward, sturdy account of an impressive career defending America.”

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