Interview with Brig. Gen. Diana Holland

Published Aug. 16, 2017

On July 18th, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Atlantic Division held its Change of Command ceremony in Atlanta, Ga. On this day, Brig. Gen. Diana Holland became the first female commander of the South Atlantic Division, taking charge of five USACE districts in the region. We asked her a few questions about her plans for how she plans to lead the nearly 5,500 employees in her charge.

What are you most excited about for your new position?

I am honored to have the opportunity to join the USACE team, but I’m particularly excited to join the South Atlantic Division. This division has an impressive history and reputation and I look forward to learning from the best.

What does it mean to you to serve as a female division commander in USACE?

Brig. Gen. (ret) Margaret Burcham was the first woman to command a USACE division, commanding the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division from 2011-2014. Like her, I’m very grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As for being one of the first women in such a position, it validates what I have long-believed about our Army. The Army welcomes people from diverse walks of life, backgrounds, experiences and demographics, and provides amazing opportunities. In our profession, no matter who you are, the sky is the limit.

What has prepared you most for this opportunity?

The Army does an amazing job of preparing people for the next challenge. Normally, it’s not just one experience that prepares you, but a collection of assignments and people. That is certainly the case for me. I have proudly worn the engineer castle for 27 years and worked with tremendous teams during that time.

What is your leadership philosophy?

I will say that climate and people are very important to me. With the right climate, everything else falls into place.

What do you expect of the districts you’ll command?

I have heard a lot of great things about the South Atlantic Division and the five districts in the region. I look forward to learning from them, engaging with their partners, and observing their continued professionalism and successes.

You seem to be very active on social media networks. What has drawn someone at your level to be engaged on social media?

I have always enjoyed taking and sharing photos. When I commanded the 92nd Engineer Battalion, I was the most prolific picture-taker in the unit and used to email photos to Soldiers and their families. It turned out to be a great way to convey gratitude and to also bond with a geographically-dispersed unit.

My most recent assignment was as the Commandant of Cadets at West Point where there are 4,400 very active young people, which presents alot of material for picture-taking. Until that assignment I was one of those officers who said, "I don’t do social media." But once I became the Commandant, I realized that social media was a great way to brag about Cadets and tell the story of the United States Military Academy and did so via Instagram and Twitter.

After leaving West Point, I started my own Instagram and Twitter accounts so I can continue to tell the Army story through my experiences. Social media can do much more than just share information… it has the potential to create networks between people and organizations, highlight an unsung hero, share ideas about our profession, and visually convey what we do in support of our nation.

What is one unique thing you would like people to know about you?

It might be of interest for people to know that I have more ties to, and spent more time in, the southeastern United States than any other part of the country (other than where I was born and raised). I served at Fort Bragg, Fort Stewart (twice), and MacDill Air Force Base. I went to Airborne School at Fort Benning and, as a West Point Cadet, served at Fort McClellan for six weeks during summer training. I went to graduate school at Duke and I am a passionate Duke Basketball fan. My husband’s family is from North Carolina and Jim and I intend to eventually retire in this region. In summary, I feel at home here.

What do you hope to leave behind after your time as the SAD Commander?

I have a lot to learn before I can talk about what I hope to leave behind. This team was here long before I arrived and will be here after I depart, so my goal at this point is to be value added to this high-performing organization.