She’s Got Grit: The First Woman General Officer of West Point

For Becky Halstead, leadership started out with her being a team player.

Brigadier General Halstead on the Syrian border

Growing up in rural New York, Becky Halstead played on the basketball team, but she only started running because the team needed one more girl to be considered a full team. “I had nine varsity letters, but I came from a little town without a stoplight,” she says, reflecting both the strength and the humility inherent in the leadership she is about to describe. By the end of our conversation, I wish I had been privileged to have served under her command.

She grew up with what she calls a “renaissance mom” and a dad who had served in the Air Force but had worked for IBM since she was born, the third of four children. West Point opened its door to women cadets the year before she was eligible to apply. “There was a college just outside of West Point called Ladycliffe,” Halstead says. “When moms said they wanted their daughters to go to West Point, they meant go to Ladycliffe and marry a West Pointer.”


Halstead decided she wanted the real deal.

“It was totally against everything going on at the time,” she says. “I grew up Baptist, and some of the people at our church supported my going, but others were completely opposed. I figured if I didn’t get kicked out, I’d graduate and put in my five years.”

Her first five years would only be the beginning.

Brigadier General Halstead thanks soldiers getting on the plane to leave Iraq.

“The lifestyle is why it clicked,” she says. “I love discipline, structure, uniforms. I was a rule follower, even as a kid.” At the end of her five years, she was in company command.

“I had the chance to take a second company, and then after pinning on Major, I never looked back. I was enjoying it too much. I loved the camaraderie and the teamwork.”

Halstead’s career did not always move in ways she expected or hoped.

“When I came out on the one-star list, my boss asked me how COSCOM sounded. I said it sounded great, and I went home and researched everything I could about it. The next day he…



Shannon H. Polson, Author, Veteran and Founder

LEADERSHIP. GRIT. PURPOSE. The Grit Factor AVAILABLE NOW: Founder: Committed to veterans and women in leadership.