By Michelle Eberhart (USMA West Point, Public Affairs)January 29, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Jan. 29, 2016) -- Brig. Gen. Diana Holland was in disbelief when she learned she had been selected as U.S. Military Academy at West Point Commandant of the Corps of Cadets. As the first female Commandant, as of late December 2015, Holland looks forward to utilizing a hands-on approach in and outside of the classroom.
As a graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Holland demonstrated leadership abilities early on as co-captain of the West Point Women's Lacrosse team. Years later, Holland spent time as a History professor where she learned how to be a better mentor to Soldiers and future leaders. As Commandant, Holland intends to not only connect with the Cadets but learn from them as well.
In 1990, Cadet Diana Leach tossed her white U.S. Military Academy hat in the air, not knowing what the future would hold. She knew she was graduating from one of the top military institutions and commissioning into the greatest Army in the world, but what else?
A fellow Cadet and friend wrote in her Howitzer yearbook entry, "We knew Diana was destined for greatness when she won the drill off in Beast and now she is in charge of Regt. drill! A true workaholic and a true friend. Look for her 5'1" frame and her pick-up truck back at West Point in a few years as a History 'P' and many years later as Supe."
Accurately enough, Diana Leach, now Holland, was a History professor from 1999-2002 and now has a white, shiny truck parked in the Commandant of Cadets' driveway, her driveway, as of late December 2015. "I was in complete disbelief and thought it might be a mistake," Holland said of her selection as Commandant of Cadets. "I have never considered Commandant as a possible assignment." The first female Commandant, at that.
Although she may be the first woman to lead the Corps, she hopes that this milestone, along with the advances of other women in the military, will help to progress the Army as a whole. "I anticipate a relatively smooth transition with full-gender integration," Holland said. "We will see a number of talented women lead the way in previously-closed MOSs, and then more will follow. We will be able to stop focusing on 'firsts' and just recognize the 'best.'"
"I've always believed 'the sky is the limit' in the Army and now that's more true than ever before," Holland added. Holland holds a vision of the future, one that started with her time as a Cadet.
She showed her ability to lead early, as co-captain of the Women's Lacrosse team, a team that became an NCAA Division I team this year. "Honestly, I loved almost everything about being a Cadet," Holland said of her time at West Point. "I enjoyed school, sports, clubs, the people and the regimentation of the Academy. I appreciated being a part of such a prestigious and patriotic institution."
As years passed, Holland spent time as a History professor where she improved her ability to be a better mentor to Soldiers and future leaders. "I enjoyed the moments when I helped a Cadet connect the dots on a major learning objective," Holland said. "But really, my biggest take-away from teaching was how much I learned from the Cadets."
Now, as Commandant, she plans on learning from Cadets outside the classroom. "I intend to connect with Cadets through a variety of ways, similar to how I worked to connect with Soldiers in our units," Holland said. "Eat meals with them, talk to them while visiting their living space or while walking to class, observe them at team practices and participate in key events wherever possible."
Holland's hands-on approach to learning and teaching will prove to be an asset to the Cadets, the faculty and the community of the Academy.
When asked what advice she would give to Cadet Diana Leach, she said what she would probably say to any Cadet right now, "Listen, learn, be yourself, trust your instincts and get to know your Soldiers."
In regards to completely fulfilling her Howitzer prophecy, Holland is not thinking that far ahead. "I have no idea what the Army has in store for me, but I really don't anticipate becoming the superintendent," Holland said honestly. "Besides, I'm having far too much fun now to think about what comes next."
And in true Army West Point fashion, Holland had one more thing to say, "Beat Navy in everything!"