Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Black woman named brigade commander of Naval Academy for first time in history

Story at a glance

  • The brigade commander is the highest leadership position within the student body and oversees day-to-day activities and training of fellow midshipmen.
  • Barber will be the first Black woman to serve in the role.
  • She will be the 16th woman to serve as brigade commander in the 44 years women have been allowed to attend the academy.

A Black woman will serve as the U.S. Naval Academy’s brigade commander for the first time in the institution’s 175-year history, the academy announced on Monday. 

Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber will hold the top role leading more than 4,500 of her fellow students at the academy after she was chosen to serve as brigade commander for the upcoming spring semester. 


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The brigade commander is the highest leadership position within the student body and oversees day-to-day activities and training of fellow midshipmen. The semester-long position is chosen through an application and interview process carried out by senior leadership and commandant’s staff. 

“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,” Barber said in a statement. “I am humbled to play a small role in this momentous season of American history.” 

Barber, of Lake Forest, Ill., is a mechanical engineering major and aspires to commission as a Marine Corps ground officer.

The first woman brigade commander was then Midshipman 1st Class Juliane Gallina who served in the position during the fall of 1991. Barber will be the 16th woman to serve as brigade commander in the 44 years women have been allowed to attend the academy.

“Sydney stands out amongst her peers, for not only her exemplary record, but for her clear vision of how she intends to make the world a better place and her accompanying bias for action,” Lt. Cmdr. Darby Yeager, a member of the Naval Academy’s Scholarship selection committee, said in a statement.


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