AUSA’s Thought Leaders webinar series—an extension of our Thought Leaders podcast— focuses on senior military leaders and contemporary military authors, Thought Leaders seeks to educate the public on critical issues affecting land forces and strategy.

Please join us on Wednesday 24 March at 1400 to hear a presentation by Diane Carlson Evans, author of Healing Wounds: A Vietnam War Combat Nurse’s 10-Year Fight to Win Women a Place of Honor in Washington, D.C, Kayla M. Williams, author of Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army and Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love & Recovery in the Aftermath of War and Shannon Huffman Polson, author of The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World and Eileen Rivers, author of Beyond the Call: Three Women on the Front Lines in Afghanistan.

Wednesday March 24, 2021, starting at 2:00 PM EDT
Diane Carlson Evans
Diane Carlson Evans, a former captain in the Army Nurse Corps who served in the combat zone of Vietnam is the founder of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation, Inc. She served as president and CEO of the Foundation’s board of directors—headquartered mainly in Washington, D.C.—for thirty years. She has received numerous prestigious awards from civic and veteran’s organizations, including lifetime memberships awarded by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans of America. Since the dedication of the Vietnam Women's Memorial in 1993, Evans has remained an active advocate in the veteran’s community focusing on healing the wounds of war. She speaks nationally about the service and contribution of women during wartime.
Kayla M. Williams
Kayla Williams is Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She was most recently Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at Center for a New American Security. She previously served as Director of the Center for Women Veterans at VA, where she focused on policies, programs, and legislation affecting women veterans. Kayla spent eight years at RAND researching servicemember and veteran health needs and benefits, international security, and intelligence policy. Ms. Williams was enlisted for five years and authored the memoirs Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army and Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War. Kayla has a BA from Bowling Green State University and an MA from American University. She is chair of the Department of Labor Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach; a former member of the Army Education Advisory Committee and VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans; a 2013 White House Woman Veteran Champion of Change; and a 2015 Lincoln Award recipient.
Shannon Huffman Polson
Shannon Huffman Polson is the author of The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience and Leadership in the Most Male Dominated Organization in the World, and the founder of The Grit Institute, a leadership institute committed to whole leader development and a focus on grit and resilience.
Polson is one of the first women to fly the Apache helicopter in the U.S. Army and a veteran of the corporate world in the medical device and technology industries.

CW5 (Ret) Phyllis Wilson
Chief Wilson began her Army career as a Military Intelligence (MI) German linguist Voice Intercept Operator. During more than 37 years of active and reserve service, she has served at all echelons from tactical to strategic, with duty in Germany, Iraq and the United States. In August 1990, she was mobilized to support OPERATION DESERT SHIELD/ OPERATION DESERT STORM and served as the Signals Intelligence collection manager for XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, NC. In December 2002, she mobilized in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM as a senior Counter Terrorism Analyst. She deployed twice to Iraq with a highly specialized Joint Special Operations Task Force.
Chief Warrant Officer Five (CW5) Phyllis J. Wilson served as the 5th Command Chief Warrant Officer (CCWO) for the United States Army Reserve. She was a key member of the Executive Team managing an organization with an annual operating budget of more than $8 Billion. She completed a Senior Fellowship with the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group focused on Global issues 2050 and beyond.
Chief Wilson holds a master’s degree in Management from Webster University, two Bachelor of Science degrees: nursing (registered nurse) and liberal arts (sociology/German) and three Associate of Science degrees. She also holds a certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University. She is pursuing a second master’s degree in Public Administration with a Non-Profit Organizations focus. She attended the Defense Language Institute for German and Spanish.
Chief Wilson’s military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary & Service Medals, and the Army Parachutist Badge. She was inducted into the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame in 2017.
Her non-profit experience includes being the President of the Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) Memorial Foundation – the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history from the Revolutionary War to today. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Allied Forces Foundation; the Army Women’s Foundation; and the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) Board of Directors. She is also a Senior Fellow at AUSA.
In March 2020, Phyllis was named a Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace Power Player of the Week. View the Video Here.
She has eight children: Joseph, Jeremy, Rebekah, Matthias, Rachel, Jared, Maria and Jesse. Four sons: Joseph, Jeremy, Matthias, and Jared are in the military and are all combat veterans. She has twelve grandchildren and counting!
LTG Guy Swan III, U.S. Army Retired
AUSA Vice President, Education
Eileen Rivers
Eileen Rivers has been a journalist for more than 15 years, and has written about the military, among other things, for The Washington Post. Her book, Beyond the Call, was an outgrowth of a multi-media project she produced for USA TODAY.

She is currently a digital content editor for USA TODAY‘s editorial page, is a member of the paper’s Editorial Board and is the founder of the paper’s microsite Policing the USA, which tracks what’s happening with police and policing across the country. She recently won an Emmy for her work on an in-depth, multi-part series on prisons and recidivism for the publication.
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