Shannon Huffman Polson

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Shannon Huffman Polson is an American writer. In 1995, Polson became one of the first women to fly the Apache attack helicopter in the U.S. Army.

Early life[edit]

Polson (nee Huffman) was born and reared in Anchorage, Alaska, daughter of an Army JAG officer. She grew up active on the swim team and the debate team, and in her church youth group.[1]

Education and military career[edit]

Polson earned her BA from Duke University in English Literature.[2][3] While home from college after her sophomore year, Polson became the youngest woman at the time to successfully summit Denali, the highest peak in North America. She entered the Army's Aviation Officer Basic Course and Initial Entry Rotary Wing Course at Ft. Rucker, Alabama in the fall of 1993, just after the lifting of aviation Combat Exclusion Policy by Les Aspin in the summer of 1993. She graduated as an honor graduate of the Officer Basic Course and in 1995 qualified on the AH-64A Apache attack helicopter.[4][5]

In 1995, Polson was the first woman to be assigned as a line pilot to the XVIII Airborne Corps at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. She worked in operations and led a flight platoon in 3-229th Aviation before transferring to 1-229th Aviation to take a flight platoon on deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the Stabilization Force in support of the Dayton Peace Accords. Polson graduated from the Military Intelligence Officer Advanced Course and Army Command and Staff School at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. She worked as a battalion logistics officer and then took command of A Company, 1-2 Aviation at Camp Page, Korea, becoming the first woman to command an Apache line company in the 2d Infantry Division. Polson's final assignment was at Ft. Bliss, TX, where she worked as an attack operations officer developing time sensitive targeting in theater missile defense in south-west Asia.[6]

Polson earned her Masters in Business Administration from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in 2003,[7] and her Masters in Fine Arts (Creative Writing) from Seattle Pacific University in 2012.[8][9] She worked for Guidant Corporation and Microsoft.[2]

In 2009, Polson was recognized as a woman of valor by Senator Maria Cantwell.[10]

She currently is an American writer and leadership development consultant and lecturer.[11][12] She is the author of The Grit Project, a blog profiling military women in the vanguard of their military fields.[13]


Polson's writing appears in Forbes[14], Huffington Post[15][16], High Country News[17], Market Watch[18], Business Insider[19], Psychology Today[20], River Teeth Journal, Ruminate Magazine, Cirque Journal, and Alaska Magazine and Seattle Magazine among others. Her essay "Naked: A Triptych" won honorable mention in the 2015 VanderMey Nonfiction Contest and was picked up by the Utne Reader. Polson's first published short story will appear in The Road Ahead, a collection of veterans' fiction forthcoming from Pegasus in 2017.

Personal life[edit]

Polson is married to Peter Polson of Seattle, Washington. They have two children.


Shannon Huffman Polson is the founder of The Grit Institute, as well as an in-demand international author and leadership speaker, equipping and inspiring leaders to excellence.

The Grit Institute[21] is committed to whole leader development in times of change and challenge.

Using dramatic storytelling alongside practical lessons and real- life takeaways, Polson uses her experience in the cockpit and the boardroom to speak and write leading companies and organizations across the country and around the world to overcome resistance, connect to their core purpose, lead from the heart and commit to courageous ownership under the most challenging conditions in the signature course, Going for Grit[22].

Books from Polson:

  • The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World (2020)
    • What does it take for women to succeed in a male-dominated world? The Grit Factor. With gripping narrative and relatable takeaways, The Grit Factor is both inspiring and pragmatic, a book that will energize and enlighten current and aspiring leaders everywhere – whether male or female.
  • The Way the Wild Gets Inside (2015)
  • North of Hope (2013)
    • A memoir of grit, family, tragedy and hope in the Alaskan Arctic.


  1. ^ Name * First Name Last Name (2018-10-16). "About — Shannon Huffman Polson, Author, Speaker, Veteran". Retrieved 2020-03-01.
  2. ^ a b "Duke Magazine | Duke". Retrieved 2020-03-01.
  3. ^ "Leading from Any Seat: Stories from the Apache Cockpit to Motivate and Inspire Leadership | Duke". Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Shannon Polson | Leader, Veteran, Real Grit | B105.7".
  6. ^ Chapman, Bert. ""Missile Defense Attack Operations. (Cover Story)" by Watanabe, Nathan K.; Huffman, Shannon M. - Joint Force Quarterly, Winter 2000 | Online Research Library". Questia. Retrieved 2020-03-01.
  7. ^ "Tuck Dartmouth Honor Roll".
  8. ^ Notess, Hannah. "Writing North of Hope - Response - Seattle Pacific University". Retrieved 2020-03-01.
  9. ^ "Grace Note: Watching and listening". SPU Voices. Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  10. ^ "Senator Cantwell's Women of Valor Awards Event".
  11. ^ "Speaker Shannon Huffman Polson | Keppler Speakers". Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  12. ^ "Grit and Leadership: Thoughts from Monday's Keynote Speaker".
  13. ^ "The Grit Project". Medium.
  14. ^ Ellevate. "Three Things You Must Do To Get Diversity Right". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  15. ^ Shannon Huffman Polson (16 June 2017). "How Putting People First Strengthens Your Team". Huffington Post.
  16. ^ Shannon Polson (28 July 2017). "Nine Things New Leaders Need to Know". Huffington Post.
  17. ^ "A grisly death in Alaska". High Country News.
  18. ^ Polson, Shannon Huffman. "What you can learn from two prisoners of war about coping with the coronavirus pandemic's challenges". MarketWatch. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  19. ^ Aug 31, Shannon Huffman Polson; 2020; Am, 9:30. "How one of the Army's first female Apache pilots stayed motivated". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-09-28.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ "Grit: Going Back to the Foundation". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  21. ^ "THE GRIT INSTITUTE". THE GRIT INSTITUTE. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
  22. ^ "Going for Grit, the signature course of The Grit Institute". Retrieved 2020-09-28.

External links[edit]