In the 175 years of the United States Naval Academy’s existence, there hasn’t been a woman of color in the position of brigade commander in the 44 years women have been attending the school — until now. Sydney Barber made history as the first Black, female to hold the position starting next semester.
In a press release sent out by the school, they wrote, “The brigade commander is the highest leadership position within the brigade, and is the only ‘six striper’– a reference to the collar insignia worn on the midshipman uniform, the rank of midshipman captain.” They continue to write, “The semester-long position is currently held by Midshipman 1st Class Ryan Chapman and is selected through an application and interview process by senior leadership from the Commandant’s staff.”
Barber is decorated with many awards and accolades under her belt. She’s an Illinois-native and a mechanical engineering major, hoping to join the Marine Corps after time at the Academy. “As a walk-on sprinter and hurdler of the Navy Women’s Varsity Track and Field team, she has lettered all three years of competing and is a USNA record holder for the outdoor 4x400m relay,” the press release says.
“She is the co-president of the Navy Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club, secretary for the National Society of Black Engineers, and a member of the USNA Gospel Choir and Midshipman Black Studies Club. Barber served as the 13th company’s executive officer this past Plebe Summer and currently serves as the brigade’s 1st regiment executive officer,” the statement continues.
She explains that she’s humbled with the awarding of the esteemed position. “Earning the title of brigade commander speaks volumes, but the title itself is not nearly as significant as the opportunity it brings to lead a team in doing something I believe will be truly special,” she explains in a statement, “I am humbled to play a small role in this momentous season of American history.”
“She is a catalyst for action, a visionary, a listener, a doer, and a person driven by compassion, by faith, by a fierce sense of passion and heart full of love,” Midshipman 1st Class Ryan Chapman said, “Sydney is the perfect person to lead the brigade.”