Women of the Military

Advice from West Point cadets

Episode Summary

What is attending a military academy like? Listen to this week's interview with Cadets Holland Pratt and Hannah Blakey. They are both seniors at West Point and hold leadership positions. Cadet Holland Pratt has been named West Point's First Captain – she is only the 7th female to attain this rank and the first time there have been two females appointed First Captain consecutively. Hannah Blakey is the new Brigade Executive Officer and recently served as the Cadet Basic Training Regimental Commander for the last six weeks, responsible for 1,200 new cadets who reported in late June. They share their experience of applying and attending West Point and what they hope for the future.

Episode Notes

Women of the Military would like to thank Sabio Coding Bootcamp for sponsoring this week’s episode! Sabio Coding Bootcamp is a top-ranked coding Bootcamp that is 100% dedicated to helping smart and highly motivated individuals become exceptional software engineers.  Visit their website www.Sabio.la to learn how you may be able to use your GI Bill benefits to train at Sabio.  Your tuition and a monthly BAH stipend may be paid during your training period.  They also are 100% committed to helping you find your first job in tech.  Don’t forget to head over to www.Sabio.la to learn more today.

September 11th reflection:

Remembering September 11th - 20 years later

The ripple effect of September 11th

A reflection of what is happening in Afghanistan

A year after leaving active duty (9/11 reflection)

Check out the full show notes at https://www.airmantomom.com/2021/09/attending-a-military-academy/

Check out the full transcript here.  

Thank you to my Patreon Sponsor Col Level and above:
Kevin Barba, Adriana Keefe, Lorraine Diaz

Get your Women of the Military Podcast gear here.

Thank you Patreon members for your support. Become a Patreon member today! Click here.   

Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman00:00

Welcome to Episode 151 of the women of the military podcast. On Saturday, it'll be the 20th anniversary of September 11. I debated back and forth on what to do to commemorate this anniversary, and I felt that it was important to keep sharing the stories of military women instead of doing a special episode focused on September 11. I've written a number of blog posts throughout the past 20 years about my feelings towards September 11. And I plan to write another blog reflection this week. So if you want to see what I have to say about September 11, I'll link to it in the show notes and share some of the previous blog posts that I've shared over the years there as well. But this week, my guests are two cadets currently attending West Point their cadets Hollin Pratt and Anna Blakey. They're both seniors at West Point and hold leadership positions. cadet Pratt has been named West point's first captain. She is only the seventh female to attain this rank and the first time there have been two females appointed first Captain consecutively. cadet Blakey is the new brigade executive officer and recently served as the cadet basic training Regimental commander responsible for 1200 new cadets who reported in late June and this interview, they both share their experience of applying and attending West Point and what they hope for the future. It's a great episode and you'll be amazed by how professional these two young women are and excited for the future of our military with them leading the way. So let's get started with this week's interview. You're listening to season three of the women on the military podcast Here you will find the real stories of female servicemembers. I'm Amanda Huffman, I am an Air Force veteran military spouse and Mom, I Korean women in the military podcast in 2019. As a place to share the stories of female service members past and present, with the goal of finding the heart of the story while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women and be inspired to change the world. Keep tuned for this latest episode of women of the military. Women of the military podcast we'd like to thank Sabio coding boot camp for sponsoring this week's episode. Savio coding boot camp is a top-ranked coding boot camp that is 100% dedicated to helping smart and highly motivated individuals become exceptional software engineers visit their website@www.sabio.la to learn how you may be able to use your GI Bill benefits to train at SABIO your tuition and monthly bH stipend may be paid during your training period. They are also 100% committed and helping you find your first job in tech. So don't forget to head over to www.sabio.la to learn more. And now let's get started with this week's interview. Welcome to the show. Ladies. I'm so excited to have you here. 

Holland and Hannah:

Thank you, ma'am. 

Amanda Huffman: 

So let's start with why did you guys decide to apply to attend west point

Holland Pratt03:31

For me, ma'am. It was related to my family history. My grandmother grew up in post-World War Two Germany, and she lived a very impoverished lifestyle. And she'd always tell me that whenever the American army came through their village, everybody would always celebrate because they brought them food, chocolate blankets, and I knew that was a mission set that I want to be a part of. So when I went on a World War tour of Europe in high school, and I got to see Normandy and Bastogne in the Bellwood in a concentration camp in my own eyes, I knew that I couldn't live my life in any other way. But to join the army and West Point seems like the best opportunity to be able to do that.

Hannah Blakey04:15

For me, ma'ma, it was really just about kind of seeing a different side of life and kind of embracing these new challenges and experiences. I grew up in Detroit. So for me, the military wasn't really a big, it's not very big in Detroit, and there aren't very many people who join it or talk about it. So when I learned about West Point, it was really just this idea of like an exciting new adventure that would push me and challenge me in a way that I hadn't been before.

Amanda Huffman04:41

I'm sure that happened. I'm sure that you were pushed and challenged in ways that you never expected. They're both smiling and nodding. So I think I think that's for sure. Let's talk a little bit about what the application process was like and if there were any challenges or tips that you have for people who are considering applying to West Point.

Holland Pratt05:01

Yes, ma'am. So the number one step that I would recommend everyone take is find out who their fieldforce representative is, every state and every district and each day has a representative who's there to help walk you through the process and give you advice on it. Mine was Mr. Bob Gregson. He was a class in 1964 from West Point, and just phenomenal mentor. And he really helped me through the process, making sure I was on schedule, giving me advice on interviews and what to talk about. He's a phenomenal leader. And I was extremely lucky. And I am grateful to this day, I still meet up with him and talk to him about West Point. And what I go through here. And I'm extremely grateful to him for all his help. As far as what the process looks like. A lot of it just starts with getting experience early on in high school with leadership position sports, focusing on getting good grades, those are all things that westpoint looks at, they expect you to be well rounded. So you don't have to be perfect, but you should be able to do a little bit of everything and do it very well. There will be a portal that opens up on the west plate website, your junior year of high school that allows you to apply to the summer leaders experience in the summer, which is an opportunity for you to come out to West Point for a week and get personal first hand experience on what it's like to be a cadet and engage with current cadets. The current cadets are the leaders for that opportunity. So it's a it's a good chance for you to learn what it means to be a cadet. And then you'll have a physical application where you'll respond to essays about yourself turn in your transcripts. But the unique thing about applying to West Point is that there's a congressional nomination process where you're district representative, or your state senator, or even the Vice President, you apply to their office to receive a nomination to attend a service Academy. And that goes for West Point, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, if you have any interest in any of those, you have to apply for a service member. And each district kind of has its own way of doing it. But usually there's an interview where they will ask you questions about leadership and why you want to go to the Academy, that is a pretty significant event for a lot of people and engaging with such high level leadership and understand what it means to portray yourself with confidence. In an interview like that. 

Hannah Blakey08:24

I'd say for me, the piece of application process that sticks out the most is just the need to kind of get things done early to. For me, I also went to the summer leaders experience. So it's a week long program after your junior year of high school. And what a lot of people don't realize is that actually gets your application rolling prior to the formal application coming out. So while you're at the Summer leaders experience, you'll do an interview with your cadet Cordray towards the end of the week. And that interview is actually an interview that supplements what you would have to do with your field force representative. And so from the time that you've done that, and you've gone through that program, it starts your application off, but it also gives westpoint a chance to look at you prior to the beginning of your formal application to be a cadet. And for me, that was a really great experience. And then also just making sure that you're ahead of things. West Point will give out letters of encouragement and letters of assurance. The letter of assurance is essentially saying, Hey, we really like you, you're really a great candidate, as long as you get your physical pass and your medically qualified and you get your congressional nomination you're in. And for me, that was a really big piece of encouragement, but you have to realize that they roll those out. There isn't a hard stop deadline. And then they start passing out acceptances. It's on a rolling basis. So getting information in early and being seen early is really beneficial, especially when it comes to the medical side. So for me, I had scoliosis I have scoliosis, so I got rebuffed by the medical portion a couple of times. And so making sure that you're getting things in early enough to get through those, whatever the extra holdups are. So for me it was getting extra x rays done, and just making sure you have time to work through all of that before the application closes.

Amanda Huffman09:26

Yeah, I think you guys are covering like how important it is to start early and to stay on top of it. And I think maybe when you think about college application, it's like, oh, I just sent my application and that's it. But for West Point. That's not it. That's just the beginning. And yeah, I think that's really good information. I loved how you guys both had such different perspectives and great tips to help people. So let's talk about going to your first summer of what do they call it?

Holland Pratt09:58

Cadet basic training.

Amanda Huffman09:59

Cadet basic training so what was that experience? Like? Did you feel prepared? or What did you do to get prepared?

Holland Pratt10:07

So we affectionately call it beast barracks. And it's a wake up call for a lot of people, especially neither handler or I came from military family. I don't know. Yeah. So that first day is called our day, reception day, and you show up, and it's just, it's a great chat. You know, people yelling at you, you're not allowed to talk without permission from someone, you are walking with your hands cupped in this squaring your corners, it's pretty significant emotional event, because you realize you have entered into a zone where you're a follower, like you, you are a part of the team, and you're relying on the team. And it's not about you anymore. And so for me, I think the biggest thing about recognizing how to get through basic training is just being a good teammate. We like to call it being a good battle buddy. And everything you do at basic training is geared towards the team environment, how are you being a good follower, and for a lot of people, they realize how well you do personally on something, it matters how well the squad does. So you might have set up your helmet correctly. But if your roommates helmet isn't set up correctly, you're still both going to face a punishment, because you didn't help your teammates. And that's building good habits for the school year. And for the military, in general about what does it mean to be a servant leader and really focus on taking care of other people, and it'll be physically demanding to you'll do workouts every morning, you'll learn what it is to do a ruck march. But luckily, again, you're doing all that as a team. So you're only as strong as your weakest link. So my another big recommendation for me would be go in and shape you're going to be expected to perform. And a lot of the first judgments that people make about you will be based on how you do physically. And so it's important to be in shape to be able to run to be able to do push ups, all of those things kind of really set you up for success in that environment. But Hannah has a bit of a different perspective on it. I know.

Hannah Blakey12:18

So for me going into the first day of beast, it wasn't quite as emotional for me only because I went to SLE and so part of the Summer Leaders Experience processes the day you get there, they do a they call it a rehearsal our day. And so you go in and I kind of got to experience our day. And I wasn't expecting it. And so the minute I got off the bus and SLE, they were yelling at us, they are pushing us along, we had to report to the cadet and the red sash, do all those things that you do on our day. And so for me, that's when my grit check came initially. So when I got to the actual art day, I felt a little bit more prepared a little bit more calm, just because I knew what to expect going into this hall and was absolutely right. Going in physically fit is so important. But I'd say what's potentially more important is your attitude about everything. So I I'd say for me, what carried me was just finding the little positives and everything you do during the day, because nothing's going to be fun all the time. But finding those little things can really help. So for me, it was okay, it sucks that we have to be up here at 530 in the morning doing PT. And I don't love working out, it's not my favorite thing in the world. So knowing that I got to see a really beautiful sunrise every morning was something that kind of pushed me I was like, okay, at least I can be grateful for this thing today. And so I'd say attitude and being willing to be a part of that team, like Collins said was just goes goes the distance.

Amanda Huffman13:47

I like that you talked about how the summer program actually prepared you because and it wasn't something you expected to be prepared for. So I think that's really good that you got to like experience that. And then that made you better prepared for when you went to boot camp. And you both talked about how important teamwork is. And I think any basic training that you go to teamwork is a huge part of it. And so I think that's really key. And I love your perspective of like looking for the small things to get you through because I remember I was just trying to get through each day of my training and was like, Oh, I survived. And I got to see the sunrise because you do have to get up early. And that's a good way to change your perspective. So I love that you guys are seniors at West Point right now you guys are both in leadership roles. What have you learned about yourself in the three years that you've been there? And what do you hope to learn over this next year as you take on these leadership roles? 

Holland Pratt14:48

Ma'am, I think one of the biggest things that West Point does really well is teach you how to handle failure and how to fail forward as a really good book that I've read affectionately called West Point does a really good job of pinpointing your weaknesses and making you work at them. And you really get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You're not going to be great at everything that was when asked me to do. But West Point requires you to put in the effort and attitude to be able to overcome those challenges. And I think for me, plebe year, like boxing class, for example, I really struggled with. And at first out, I would get extremely upset, like, why am I not good at this? Like, do I do I belong here is this for me, and then I really thought about it. And through conversations with mentors, I realize that I'm not going to be good at everything right away, but I could work at it, and I could get better at it. And so now that attitude and mindset, every time I face something that's challenging, I just keep that in the back of my head, that you're not going to be perfect at everything, you're gonna make mistakes. But all that matters is how you respond to those mistakes. Because we all are human, and we can't predict everything that's going to happen to us, especially in a leadership role, you're going to face unexpected challenges that require you to critically think about them and understand that at the end of the day, everything's gonna work out the way it should, so long as you remain focused and are willing to work hard at it, I would say another thing that was was really taught me is just how to be a part of a team and work with other people. The unique thing about West Point, and the reason why it's the number one leadership institution in the world, is because you are actively engaged in leadership positions throughout your entire four years here, not only are you in a classroom, learning about leadership, not only are you talking about it, but you're actively practicing it. And that goes during the academic year, and during summer trainings, you really get the opportunity to figure out what your leadership style is. And home one that is authentic to you, that's a big emphasis is you know, you don't have to be the loudest leader, you don't have to be a quiet leader. But you have to be a leader who is true to you. And people can read that from a mile away. And if they see that authenticity, they're going to trust you to lead them in the right direction. And so I think those two lessons have really stood out to me. As far as what I want to get out of this upcoming school year. I'm just hoping to have the opportunity to serve my classmates the best that I possibly can. This is our last year here. And this is really our defining year to leave our legacy, our mark at West Point. And I'm hoping that Ken and I can lead our team and make sure that that legacy is positive and something that helps the Corps of Cadets really transition from a tough year living in a COVID environment and understand and really reconnect with what it means to be a servant leader. And what it means to focus on the legacy of West Point and what we are expected to do as future officers. I like to say eager to serve willing to lead the idea that you always put others before you and your leadership position is the opportunity and a tool to serve others and help others and is never your end state. So I'm hoping we can live that this year.

Hannah Blakey18:15

I would say that the biggest things that I've learned since coming to West Point. One is just how how powerful having good people and good friends and mentors and support systems around you is the big thing here is cooperate to graduate. And I think it goes so far beyond what that simple phrase can even explained, we talked about, we talked about beast and how a big part of it is being a part of a team. But even once you get to the academic year, on the other summer trainings, and just the day to day things that happen in life was when is so tough as is just between school and being on a team or doing some sort of sport. And then the academics. And it's just with all of the things that go on in life and at the stage in our lives with you know, grandparents dying, and just whatever home situations, having a really great support system here. And really tying into your friends and your mentors and leaning on them when you need to is something that's so beneficial. But a lot of times for for a lot of people that come here I found it's really we find it really tough to ask for help, or to reach out when we need help. Because most of us are so used to being able to get it done and being able to do it on our own because we've been so self sufficient and so successful, being self sufficient. And so coming here just learning how to ask for help, and learning how to reach out and be honest. When you're not sure you can do something or when you need a little extra push to get something done, I'd say is one of the big things I learned. The second is probably just that so many things that we do here are mental and mental tests and whether it's physical or academic Make, it's really about how you go into it. So one of my biggest challenges here was survival swim, I came in, I was like, Oh, I'm not a bad swimmer, you know, I was a lifeguard in high school. And I got to survival swim. And it was just a totally, totally different arena. And no matter how strong a swimmer, I thought I was I was not was not anywhere near the high level swim class or anything like that. So recognizing that some of the challenges that I was facing and some of the things that I was struggling with in that class, it was more about me being willing to push myself and push myself past where I was comfortable, is really what helped me succeed to a point that I was comfortable with in that class. And then one of the things that I hope to learn this year, there's, I feel like there's so many things that I've already been learning this year from my summer leadership detail. And then just working with Holland, I'd say, one of my biggest things is kind of learning how to be a better leader and follower. At the same time, West Wing talks a lot about leadership and about what it means to be a good leader, and being the leader that other people deserve. But a big part that I began to realize is, you have to be a good follower as well, in order to be a good leader. So Han is the first captain, and I'm her xo. So one of my big things is making sure that our staff, our brigade staff can work and kind of coordinate one another in a way that is serving and meeting the intent that she has for the Corps for this year, so eager to serve, willing to lead everything that we do, and that I'm having the people that are working for me do, it's supposed to, it's supposed to kind of organize under that idea, and kind of help the Corps see that that's what we want for the year.

Amanda Huffman21:48

I really like that both of you talked about how West Point has pushed you to have to reach out or to admit that you're not good at everything. I think that's the lesson that you guys learn so young, but I feel like I didn't learn for a long time. And so it's really interesting to hear you guys talk about it, because you guys are so much younger than me the importance of getting help and like how hard it is to reach out for help, but how important it is to help yourself thrive in whatever situation you're in. And also being challenged with something that you aren't the best at. And I think that was like one of my like, hardest lessons that I learned because in high school in college, things were pretty easy. And I was usually one of the best and it wasn't and you guys are learning that so young. And it wasn't until like basic training. And being a lieutenant that I started to learn those and you guys have already learned those lessons. So that's really interesting to hear about. And I think it's really cool to hear about women and leadership and West Point. And I have done some research on like some of the changes that have been happening with there be more women and more women in leadership. So what is it like to kind of be not breaking glass ceilings, but kind of expanding on the glass ceilings that have already been broken? So what has it been like to lead as a woman at West Point?

Holland Pratt23:08

Last semester, I did a woman's history project on women's integration into West Point. And I had the opportunity to interview a lot of the first classes of women and experiences they went through I cannot even imagine going through today. I they they went through so many things. And they truly broke that glass ceiling for us to be able to be here today. And I was on the phone with one of them. I was in the car with a bunch of guys from my company. And I just looked around that car and I told her over the phone. Thank you because of you I get to be in a car full of men who respect me and appreciate me and value my leadership and are willing to follow me they're my best friends. And they have shown nothing but support from me over the years. And especially now. I'm relying on them for their support more than ever. And I think that's really kind of what it has come down to here is just building relationships and demonstrating that it is so possible for men and women to work together in a military environment and go through hard things together. And you're always going to have strengths and weaknesses no matter what gender you are. I mean everybody has something that they struggle with everything. Everybody has something that they're really good at. And it's about relying on each other for those strengths and weaknesses. I would say that specifically being a woman in a leadership position here, it's a lot of it's just influencing other women to feel empowered. I know girls really struggle with pull ups sometimes. And what I found is that it's not so much that they're physically incapable of doing them but that they've been told all their lives that women can't do pull ups. And so they get here and I'm like it is so possible you can you can work up to it, you know, like with my handball team every day at practice, after drills, that would be going to pull bars, and you just knock out a couple whether you needed some inspiring help you or not. And we got a lot of girls able to do their first pull ups through that just because they had a crew of other girls around them supporting them and say, Hey, you can do this, this is something that you can work on be able to do. So I think for me, it's all about being in a position where you get to influence and empower others to feel that they do have that ability and confidence to be the best version that they can be.

Hannah Blakey25:35

I'd have to agree with that. I think some of I guess it's really obvious to say what some of my closest friends here are the guys that have been in my company and kind of been there since be supporting me and kind of pumping me up and allowing me to do the same for them. I think the academic year is a really great equalizer. I know a lot of women struggle during the summer, sometimes just with the road marches and some of the more physical stuff. And I think everybody's very capable of doing those things. It's just about training yourself in a way that fits you. So I was leadership for the summer, this past summer. And it was really great to be able to talk to some of the CADRE and just talk about, hey, most women don't pack their rocks the same way that men do, because our bodies are just built differently. And sometimes we need to put the weight down here instead of putting it all up on our shoulders, things like that. And a big part of it is just been figuring out and learning from other women who have gone before us, what works for you, and what's more beneficial in a field environment so that you can be your best. And then like Collin said, Everybody has their strengths and their weaknesses. So once you learn those, and once you're able to figure those out, it's all about helping the people around you with whatever their weaknesses are based on your strengths. So maybe somebody is helping push you up a hill during the summer, because you're not as good at rocking, but when it comes to Lana you can help them find their points are when it comes to rifle marksmanship, you're really, really great shot. And I think just having that back and forth. And being able to play on your strengths is something that everybody here male or female can really appreciate. And so I know that there, there are likely some isolated events, in terms of kind of discriminating against women and thinking less of women in leadership roles. Personally, I haven't experienced that very much. And essentially, it's just because I've surrounded myself with a really great group of friends, and a really great group of people who believe in me and support me and push me. But even this summer, my my Command Sergeant Major for beast was a guy. And the biggest thing that he said was, Hey, man, like any Hill you want, I'll die on it for you, like I've got your back 100% of the way. And just having people like that around you, constantly supporting you. It makes all the difference in the world, because then you feel confident to go to other women. And particularly, I had a couple of new cadets come up to me and asked me about being a woman in a leadership role. And just expressing to them, Hey, be confident in who you are, and what you know, and your skill set. And be honest about what you're not as strong at, and people will respect it and push you to be better.

Amanda Huffman28:27

Yeah, I mean, I think it's great that you guys are both paving the way. And it's really interesting to hear about you being in charge of them at basic training. And I never thought about like how you pack your rock based on your body and how everything that I was taught in the military, it was based on a man's body. And so to hear you talk about something like that's something really small, but it's really big, and it can change if they're able to complete the rack or if they're not, or if they're like just struggling by changing the way the weight of the rock is. So having that female influence in all aspects of the military. I think it really matters. And it's something that I think is changing, but I didn't realize how important it was until you talked about that. And so that's really cool to hear. I love both of your answers you guys are so Oh, quit. Do you have a favorite memory from your time at West Point? This more laid back question. But do you have a favorite memory from your time at West blank?

Hannah Blakey29:24

Well, that's a tough one. I feel like there are just so many small moments here that kind of add up and make up what what we love about West Point like it's so hard going home and people ask me Oh, like Do you like it? I'm like, Yes, I love it. And they're like, oh, why do you love it? What do you do? And I'm like, and then it's hard to articulate exactly what what it is. I'll let Holland go. She might have a story specifically though.

Holland Pratt29:51

I think Ma'am, the best way that I reflect on my point so one of my old roommates she started plebe you're doing what's called One second a day. And so every day, you just take a one second video of something that happened to you that day. And then over the course of, you know, semesters or years, you get a good glimpse of what it is to be at West Point. So I started mine last year, I wish I would have started at plebe year. And when I watch that video, those are my favorite memories, just the little moments where your friend like puts on a weird modulation of uniform items and does something funny. We have spirit dinners at West Point where the plebes dress up in crazy costumes and you get some wild stuff. We did a snowball fight last year during like the massive snowstorm. And people were just like going at it. And they were using like food trays as sleds down the hill. So like random moments like that are what make West Point because it's all about the people here and you're not going to I mean, in my opinion, you're not going to find a group of people more dedicated and more focused on serving other people than you will at a place like this. And that's the unique thing about the military, in my opinion is that everything you do always revolves around helping and serving other people. And that's really defined my cadet experience are those little moments of laughing with your friends and going through experiences that you will not get at any other place in the world.

Hannah Blakey31:26

I would agree, I think it's, it's pretty much impossible to pinpoint a favorite memory or moment from West Point. But just the understanding that you're able to go from these really serious deep intellectual conversations, wherever it may be about life, about the military about serving others to go from that one minute. And then the next you're having a snowball fight or you're laughing at each other because somebody just throw a snowball through your window, things like that, like just kind of the goofy little moments playing live Mario Kart in with laundry carts in the middle of a central area, which is something that happened last year, just so much of the creativity that could not find to get into just as a product of being here. I think my my favorite thing is that cats can go from being so serious and so focused and so disciplined to then kind of acting like children in a way and just being super creative, and fun and Goofy. And being able to have that balance, I think is really unique.

Amanda Huffman32:28

Yeah, that kind of reminds me of being a second lieutenant of the first six weeks on active duty, I went to an Air Force training and like we had to be serious. I mean, it was much more laid back than West Point. But we had like class all day long. And then on the weekends in the evenings, like it was not the same story. We're not the same professional people that we were during the day. And so it just reminds me of like memories like that. And the people that you meet in the military become like your family. And it's like they're your friends. But it's it's different because you have to like bond together because you're away from your family and your especially like with holidays and all the different things and then I'm sure your guys's class, because of you having to go through all the stuff that's been happening with the pandemic makes the bond even more special, because you're going through such a different experience,

Hannah Blakey33:19

I would definitely say that last year kind of created the dynamic, that was really special, because we weren't allowed to leave posts, really at all last year for the majority of the past year. A lot of people weren't happy about it. But I would say that the the amount of time we spent with one another and interacting with one another because there was no other choice. It really kind of made us more into a family and kind of created more of those unique experiences that we probably wouldn't have had otherwise, just because it was really easy to get people to do things in a really large group to get people to do things in company, because we weren't leaving over the weekends with just your small select group of friends and you didn't have a chance to go out every night. So you were hanging around the company area talking to more people that you maybe hadn't interact with as much since beast even. So I'd say it was it was a really unique bonding experience for our class for sure.

Amanda Huffman34:18

I have loved this interview even more than I expected and I thought I would like it a lot. But I want to end the interview by I always in my podcast interview asking him for advice for young woman. And so I would love to hear what advice you would give to young women who are considering joining the military or considering going to West Point. Let's focus more on like West Point because that's your guys's experience besides planning early and because that was the advice you gave in the application process. What other advice would you give?

Holland Pratt34:50

I would give two things for advice. Number one, at the end of the day, all you have to do is be you Don't try to force somebody else's leadership style on you don't try to conform to a vision that somebody has be you, whatever you that needs to take. I mean, it sounds cliche, it sounds cheesy, but people gravitate towards the people who are centered and who they are, and who genuinely care for others. And if the military is for you, then that's awesome. And we want you here, we want you to come here. That's the mindset we want. But just be you don't, don't let anybody else tell you what a good leader is, you can take advice, and you can look at people and be like, well, I really like that version of leadership, you don't have to fully adopt it, you can be like, Hey, I'm gonna take these bits and pieces and form this as a part of who I am, you get to own who you are. And as long as that is authentic, and centered around who you want to be, you will do very well here because people will see that you are genuine. And the second part of that is just come here with the mindset that you want to serve others, and that you want to be in the military have an understanding that you are going to be a good follower, and you are going to be a good servant leader, I always tell people that like the last time you get to a higher level leadership position, I was like, at the end of the day, just focus on caring for other people, you just focus on that care, the rest will fall into place that that is all a good leader needs to be able to do is care for others, and then that care will motivate them and guide them to work hard to be competent to have good character. But it all comes down to that willingness to be a good servant leader. So those are the two biggest things that I can give to women is just be authentically you and care for other people to the best of your ability.


Amanda Huffman36:56

I interviewed retired general Wilma Vaught. And she was one of the first Air Force generals and she said the same thing, like take care of people. So it's awesome that you already know that so young. So that's really cool.

Hannah Blakey 37:09

My first thing would be, don't allow the naysayers to dictate how much effort you are willing to put in. So I know when I was a senior in high school, and I went to I went to just an informational meeting. And I was speaking to an old grad and one of the things that he told me was, hey, you're not going to be able to get all A's like, you're great. Like, nobody's going to be able to get a four oh, you're not going to be able to do it. So it's not even worth it. Don't even try just focus on other things. And I'd say had I listened to him and not put in the effort to even attempt to achieve that, I don't think I would have, I definitely would not have been able to do as much as I've done here. And I don't think I would have enjoyed westpoint nearly as much I'd say putting in the effort is part of what makes this place enjoyable, because it's about challenging yourself. So kind of all the naysayers that are telling you maybe you know, don't go to West Point, or I had people telling me, Hey, don't go to West Point, you know, you're a woman, you're a black female, it's maybe that's not the right place for you go somewhere else. Like Han said, if it's for you, we want you here. So stick with your gut and and trust your instinct, if this is where you feel you're supposed to be. Do whatever it takes to get here because once you get here, there are people who will gather around you and support you and appreciate you and cheer you on to be your best. And I guess the second thing is just come come ready to work. Like you said, like it's it's gonna push you sometimes more than you were expecting more than you think you can know that there are people there to lift you up. But be ready to do 9798 99% of that work, and get that extra push along the way.

Amanda Huffman38:56

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedules. I know that you guys are really busy with your course load and then your leadership responsibilities. So I really appreciate you guys taking the time. I've loved hearing your answers and just being inspired for the next generation of military women. I feel like it's coming full circle to get to talk to you and with all the work that I've been doing for the podcast. So thank you so much. 

Holland Pratt39:19

Thank you, ma'am. 

Hannah Blakey39:19

Thank you for your time, ma'am. We appreciate it.

Amanda Huffman39:28

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