By Jennifer L. Warren
WEST POINT – Be a vessel. Those are the three words of advice Simone Askew would give to anyone aspiring to follow a similar path she did. It’s a metaphor the 20 year old Fairfax, Virginia native equates to something that is open to being filled up with as much learning as possible. That advice has resulted in a long list of reputable feats for Askew over the years.
Most recently, it landed her in the history books as the first African-american woman to be selected as First Captain-the highest position in the cadet chain of command-at the United States Military Academy.
Occupying several leadership roles, Askew recently wrapped up her position overseeing 1502 Cadets as Regimental Commander of Cadet Basic Training II. Responsible for the overall performance of a 4400 member corp of cadets, Askew’s duties will further involve implementing classroom agendas as well as acting as a liason between the corp and administration. All of these lofty tasks might seem daunting to many at such a young age; however, Askew is quick to cite where her confidence stems from: team, ones who have helped mold who she is, as well as others who she will soon have the honor of joining. It was the very first thing that crossed her mind when she was informed of the First Captain honor.
“It was very humbling,” recalled Askew. “I was excited, but most of all just kept thinking about what a great team we are going to have.”
Others, rather than herself. It’s the first place she points to when asked about what qualities led to her selection for the historic leadership role.
“What really led me to this selection (as First Captain) was the people I have surrounded myself with; I have stood on the shoulders of giants,” said Askew. “I want to now continue to seek out as much as I can, learning and growing as much as possible.”
That education is jam packed; Askew not only will have a list of hefty Army responsibilities in her new role as First Captain, she also is deeply immersed in her schedule outside of the Army. A member of West Point’s Crew Team, developing leaders as the Cadet-in-Charge of the Elevation Initiative, member of the Phi Alpha Theta Honorary National History Society, and the holder of several awards and recognitions, Askew is constantly on the go, taking in as much as she can of the military and life experience offered by USMA. As a result, challenges can surface, ones that the young Askew has already developed a philosophy to approach.
“Balance,” affirmed Askew. “If you are happy with your life, then those around you are going to be happy as well.”
And it’s that level of contentness that Askew hopes to reflect in her fellow charges as a First Captain. As she marched with her Cadets in Monday’s Basic Training culminating Annual ”Marchback,” she reflected upon how exciting it was to see how proud and happy the parents were of their children, a telling reminder of her own participation in the event a few years back.
“I can remember how happy and excited my father was seeing me,” recalled Askew. “It’s just so inspiring to see it again today.”
Always looking to others as her guiding foundation and foremost motivator, Askew realizes how much more remains to be learned from them as she commences her historic role as both a female and African-american.
“Being selected for this role was just part of it; it’s really all about what you can do with it,” smiled Askew. “Seeing the graduates that surround me here today (at Marchback) makes our work here so, so worthwhile; I continue to learn so much from them every day.”