Love This Place, Hate This Place: Reflections From A Member Of The West Point Class Of ‘80

Kathy Silvia


Kathy Silvia was born in North Reading, Massachusetts, the 4th of 9 children. Sports were a big part of her childhood. Since there were so many kids in the house, frequently she went to school early, ran miles around the track, and showered at school before class. In 1975, she tried to enlist, but her recruiter, noticing her high school record, steered her towards West Point. She received her nomination to the Military Academy on Memorial Day 1976. Arriving at West Point in the summer of 1976, she experienced a rough transition as a member of the first group of women to enter the Academy. For example, she recalls having her head buzzed, nothing fitting properly, and the challenge of performing inspection arms with an M-14. A big problem was that there were no women in the upper classes they could go to for advice or assistance. Initially, the women were issued Full Dress Coats without tails (an attempt to address a woman’s figure) but instead, the women stuck out even more and were referred to as “cotton tails” due to the prominent white trousers below their grey coats. Although she branched Field Artillery, she was assigned to public affairs roles until she commanded a Lance Missile Battery in Germany. She remarks that transitioning into the Army was easier than transitioning into West Point as a Plebe. Throughout the interview, she describes some of the challenges she faced as a woman in the Class of 1980. She recalls the extra work she put in to pass an engineering class (including an uncomfortable meeting with the Dean). She discusses playing on the women’s basketball team and how the upper-classes rallied around the team when the Plebes proved that they could take on juniors and seniors from other schools and win. She explains how women were integrated into the corps a few companies at a time to try to maintain their strength in numbers (assigning women to 12 companies versus spreading the Class of 80 women out across 36 companies). She remembers some of her Army experiences and relates how she worked hard for her Soldiers. Finally, she reflects on her service and what West Point means to her.


conflicts Cold War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Military Techniques Women in Service Army Athletics West Point History
interviewer David Siry
date 06 October 2023


name Kathy Silvia
institution USMA
graduation year 1980
service Field Artillery
unit 197th Infantry Brigade; 42nd Brigade; HHB 3rd Battalion 79th Field Artillery; 2nd S&T Battalion; 4th Infantry Division DISCOM; SOUTHCOM DCSLOG
specialty Public Affairs
service dates 1980 2006