- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Simone Askew. Remember her name.

She is the leader of the pack, so to speak, of the Class of 2021 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the first black woman to hold the position.

That Cadet Askew shattered West Point’s glass ceiling is no small measure — no small measure in the armed forces, for sure, and no small measure of 21st century America.

The military, like the world of business, has long been considered a man’s world.

And the telltale signs of war, peace and tribalism reflect where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed. Cadet Askew and her teammates are leading America across a new threshold.

For one, West Point is the oldest of our military academies. It was founded after President Thomas Jefferson, who had not served in the military but became commander in chief when he was sworn into office, signed the Military Peace Establishment Act in 1802. The act specified that the academy be established along the Hudson River in New York.

The founding dates of the other military academies are: Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, 1845; Coast Guard in New London, Connecticut, 1876; Merchant Marine in Kings Point, New York, 1943; and Air Force, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1954.

One of the largest footprints Cadet Askew is stepping into belongs to Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, West Point’s first black cadet captain and now commander of U.S. Forces Korea.

“We are role models to a lot of young people, not just African-Americans and soldiers,” the now 58-year-old Gen. Brooks once said.

Indeed, America’s current state of affairs proves that America’s future leaders will have much with which to contend. Gen. Brooks, who, like Cadet Askew, attended high school in Fairfax County, is staring down the barrel of the North Korea nuclear threat.

On the home front, civil unrest and tensions among various cultural factions make the rounds of daily news and undistilled social media every day.

In our armed forces, G.I. Jane is far more than a figment of Hollywood’s and Ridley Scott’s imaginations.

Remember Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch, the two soldiers who were captured in Iraq in 2003 during the “global war on terror”? The Marines rescued both, and both wrote successful biographies.

They, too, became role models even though their capture spawned anew the debate over whether women should even serve in combat areas.

Cadet Askew, 20, had barely entered grade school at the time.

Cadet Askew not only is making history, she is studying it as well. In fact, her major is international history, an ever-changing subject in this ever-changing world of ours.

She also loves volleyball and is on the West Point crew team — understanding, as too many of America’s political leaders and wannabe political leaders do not, that team sports give you a different perspective on leadership.

The media gave anyone interested a glimpse of Cadet Simone Askew in her new role as first captain of cadets at West Point, leading the Long Grey Line of cadets on a 12-mile basic training trek — smiling all the way.

Cadet Askew already sounds like she’s preparing the Army Class of 2021 for the history books.

“It’s humbling,” she said, “but also exciting as I step into this new opportunity to lead the corps to greatness with my teammates with me.”

As I said, remember the name Simone Askew.

The angels are already singing her praises.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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