History was made on Monday when Simone Askew became the first African-American to lead the Long Gray Line at the West Point United States Military Academy in New York.
Fox News reports that the 20-year-old from Fairfax, Virginia led 1,200 new cadets on the rigorous 12-mile march and an introduction to the "beast barracks." Afterwards, she assumed the rank of first captain of the 4,400-member Corps, the highest rank that a cadet can achieve. Her duties will be to oversee the Corp of Cadets, implement the class agenda, and act as a liaison between faculty and students.
She told reporters: "It's humbling, but also exciting as I step into this new opportunity to lead the corps to greatness with my teammates with me.” She continued, “You’re selected for this role, that’s not the end of it.” Adding, “That’s just the starting line, and it’s more so, ‘Hey, what do you do with this role? What are you able to accomplish alongside your teammates?’ And I’m very, very fortunate to be around some awesome people,” The New York Times reports.
The commandant of cadets, Brigadier General Steven W. Gilland, praised the new first captain, "Simone truly exemplifies our values of Duty, Honor, Country.”
Askew’s mother, Pam, praised her daughter’s accomplishment. "That leadership is something I've seen throughout her life. ... wanting to be first, wanting to be the best, wanting to win, in sports, in academics, in every aspect of her life ... and to serve others, as well."
When asked if she had any advice for young people, Askew noted, "Allow yourself to be a vessel. Throughout my cadet career I've just really focused on being poured into, seeking advice, seeking development, leadership mentors wherever I could. Just truly be a vessel and be poured into."
General Vincent K. Brooks was the first African-American appointed to first captain in 1979. He is currently the commander of U.S. Forces in Korea. Colonel Kristin Baker is the first female to be appointed in 1989. She serves as commander of Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe, Analytic Center.