The U.S. military announced Thursday that Simone Askew will make West Point history by being the first black woman to serve as the academy's first captain. Askew will assume her new post in the 2017-2018 academic year, and once she does, she'll be in charge of commanding over 4,000 cadets.
A 20-year-old International History major from Fairfax, Virginia, Askew already leads 1,502 cadets in her capacity as West Point's Regimental Commander of Cadet Basic Training II. She's also a member of the school's crew team, a graduate of its Air Assault School and a member of the Phi Alpha Theta Honorary National History Society, according to the U.S. Military Academy Public Affairs Office's press release. On top of that, Askew is an EXCEL scholar who received the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Military Leadership.
Once she becomes first captain, her duties will include developing class agendas and serving as a liaison between the cadets and the school's administration.
"Simone truly exemplifies our values of Duty, Honor, Country," said Brig. Gen. and Commander of Cadets Steven W. Gilland in a statement. "Her selection is a direct result of her hard work, dedication and commitment to the Corps over the last three years. I know Simone and the rest of our incredibly talented leaders within the Class of 2018 will provide exceptional leadership to the Corps of Cadets in the upcoming academic year."
Askew will now hold the highest-ranking position for a cadet in West Point. However, she had an impressive record of accomplishments long before she enrolled in the military academy. Her family told NBC 4 that at Fairfax High School, Askew served as class president, captain of the volleyball team and founder of the school's Black Student Union.
“She was always very positive, had great energy,” Dave Goldfarb, Askew's former high school principle, told the Washington Post. “She excelled at including others. She was very much a collaborative leader.”
West Point was founded as America's military university in 1802, butit only began admitting women in 1976. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 20 percent of the student body was female as of 2016.
“[Askew's new position is] a great step for not only women, but African-American women, because it shows that no matter what your sex, or your race, you can really do anything,” Askew's sister Nina told NBC 4. “There’s nothing that can hold you back.”