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Podcast: Warrior of Innovation with Kathy Hildreth ’83, 2024 WPAOG DGA Recipient

Category: Grad News
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In this episode, MAJ Nargis Kabiri ’10 sits down with the extraordinary Kathy Hildreth ’83, Managing Director & Principal for M1 Support Services and 2024 WPAOG Distinguished Graduate Award recipient.

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This podcast is an edited version of a West Point Entrepreneurs webinar that occurred in late February. Kathy shares her awe-inspiring journey from a cadet at West Point to founding M1 Support Services, a company that stands at the forefront of supporting the Department of Defense. Her story is one of unwavering dedication, from her early days in Army Aviation to becoming one of America’s richest self-made women, as recognized by Forbes. Her success is not just measured in financial milestones but also in her philanthropic endeavors, including her significant contributions to the Wounded Warrior Project and West Point’s initiatives.

Kathy Hildreth is West Point’s most commercially successful woman graduate to date. A member of the Glee Club and Protestant Chapel Choir as a cadet, Hildreth was commissioned as an Aviation Officer. She flew VIPs in Korea and then served as a Maintenance Test Pilot at Hunter Army Airfield before choosing to remove the uniform in 1988 as a captain. After she left the Army, her service continued. After positions of increasing responsibility with Fortune 500 companies, Hildreth founded M1 Support Services in 2003. Through her leadership, M1, a nearly billion-dollar service company, has supported the DoD in over 43 CONUS locations and OCONUS in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad, Djibouti, Japan, Korea, Germany, Lithuania, and 27 other countries. M1’s critical support earned the Army Aviation Association of America’s Materiel Readiness Award for Contributions by a Major Contractor in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. With her entrepreneurial success and exceptional leadership, Hildreth was the first veteran named to the Forbes list of “America’s Richest Self-Made Women” in 2019 and every year since. In 2023, Forbes also selected her to the prestigious “50 Over 50” list. Since 2020, she has served on the board of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). She was inducted into West Point’s Omar N. Bradley Lifetime Giving Society in 2023. Hildreth has supported the West Point Entrepreneurs, cadet academic classes, and the Corbin Forum.

This episode delves into her leadership style, the challenges and successes of being an entrepreneur, her philanthropic efforts, and her insights into government contracting and the future of innovation in this space. It also touches on the importance of culture, employee management, safety, and strategic risk mitigation in building a successful business.

**This episode does not imply Federal endorsement.

Episode Timestamps

(00:27) Kathy’s career accomplishments
(05:07) Kathy’s inspiration to attend West Point
(11:03) Launching the M1 Support Services and springboarding into Gov’t contracts
(20:35) Finding small business opportunities with the government
(28:55) Recruiting high-end talent to your organization
(31:50) Stepping into AI and Machine Learning
(34:55) Keeping small businesses comfortable as small businesses
(37:28) Engaging with contract officers
(39:15) Learning to grow from failure
(42:58) Mission first focused on culture

Links

Connect with Kathy Hildreth ’83
Visit M1 Support Services Website
Support the Wounded Warrior Project

“Like any organization, having the right people in the right positions is one of the most challenging things that you can do…We’re fortunate that a lot of what we do is related to the military, so a lot of the people we hire are retired military, former military, they already have discipline. They already understand the mission. They’re mission-focused, and to a large degree, they’re self-motivated and they don’t require a lot of extra motivation. But, we did something here…a lot of large companies will set up a framework for ‘this position is a grade 10, step 3,’ and it’s very bureaucratic and you hire a person into that position that you try to fit in that box. Taking the entrepreneurial view to it, we said, ‘Okay, let’s go find good people, and let’s figure out what their skills are, and let’s figure out the best way to deploy them in the organization, rather than to put them in this, grade three-step, whatever.’ And that has really, I think, paid dividends for our management team.”

—Kathy Hildreth ’83

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Podcast

The WPAOG Podcast is a strategic initiative focused on tailored audible communications to further inform Graduates on current AOG projects, events, and USMA updates. This customized content is mainly for USMA Alumni and the West Point Community solely produced by the West Point Association of Graduates. The Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Audible, Google Podcasts, and iHeartRadio.

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