The Naval Academy named its first Black female brigade commander

Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber aspires to be a Marine Corps ground officer. By David Williams, CNN

(CNN) -- A Black woman will lead the US Naval Academy's student body for the first time in its history.

Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber, a mechanical engineering major from Lake Forest, Illinois, has been named brigade commander for the spring semester -- the academy's highest student leadership position, the Naval Academy said in a news release Monday.

Barber is on the track team, holds leadership positions in a number of student organizations and aspires to be a Marine Corps ground officer.

"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 the release. "I am humbled to play a small role in this momentous season of American history."

The brigade commander is responsible for the much of the day-to-day activities and professional training for the Naval Academy's more than 4,400 midshipmen, according to its website.

She was selected from a group of the top-ranked first class midshipmen by a board made up of senior leadership staff, which interviewed and reviewed the candidates' records.

Barber will be the 16th woman to serve as brigade commander in the 44 years since women have been allowed to attend, the statement said. The first was then-Midshipman 1st Class Juliane Gallina, who held the position in 1991.

Janie Mines, who became the first Black woman to graduate from the Naval Academy in 1980, shared her excitement on social media.

"This bought me to tears. This young woman, Midshipman Sydney Barber, will be the first Black Female Brigade Commander at the US Naval Academy. 40 years later. Thank you Sydney! Love you!" Mines wrote.

It's been a year of firsts for the US Navy.

In July, Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle earned her Wings of Gold and became the service's first Black woman to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot.

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