Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber is the first Black female brigade commander, the Naval Academy announced.
On Friday, Nov. 6, the Academy selected Barber since she was the top-ranked midshipman out of this semester’s board process. Her new role makes her the highest-ranked leader within the brigade as well as the only “six striper”— the collar insignia worn on the midshipman uniform — the rank of midshipman captain, according to the press release.
“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.”
A graduate of Lake Forest High School in Illinois, Barber is a mechanical engineering major whose research in developing legislative strategies to address education disparities in minority communities which led to her being selected as a 2020 Truman Scholar national finalist.
“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,” said Midshipman 1st Class Ryan Chapman, who currently holds the position. “Sydney is the perfect person to lead the brigade.”
In addition to being a scholar, she’s heavily involved in extracurriculars. Barber is a lettered athlete for the Navy Women’s Varsity Track and Field team and holds positions as the co-president of the Navy Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club and secretary for the National Society of Black Engineers.
As Barber ascends through the ranks, she aspires to commission as a Marine Corps ground officer. She has paid close attention to engaging the Black community and creating opportunities for young Black girls. She initiated a STEM outreach program that leverages mentoring, literature, and service lessons to serve middle school-aged girls of color. She also led a team to organize the inaugural USNA Black Female Network Breakfast to bridge the generational gap between current Black midshipmen and alumni.
“We are the architects of our future, and every day we earn the right to carry the torch that was once lit by the heroes, pioneers, and giants who came before us,” said Barber. “I owe everything to every person who paved the way for me, so I now pour my heart and soul into blazing the trail for the generations to come.”