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VMI gets 1st female commander of Corps of Cadets

The Virginia Military Institute is getting its first female commander of the Corps of Cadets.

Cadet Kasey Meredith took on the role at a change of command parade on Friday. She is the first female regimental commander in VMI’s 182-year history.

The rising senior will be the military commander of the corps, responsible to the commandant of cadets for the training, appearance, discipline, health, welfare and morale of about 1,700 cadets.

Corps of Cadet Commander Kasey Meredith, of Johnstown, Pa., yells a command as she leads the corps during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Meredith will be the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)

Meredith told The Roanoke Times that being the first woman in the role is “amazing," but she didn't apply because she would be the first. Instead, she thought she could contribute a lot to the role and that she would find it fulfilling.

Meredith is from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and plans to join the Marine Corps. But her mother, who was in the Navy, encouraged her to go to college first. She is majoring in international studies with a minor in Spanish and has has held numerous leadership positions at VMI, mostly recently 1st Battalion sergeant major.

“I shot for every opportunity that I had,” Meredith said. “It’s amazing to see the way I’ve grown here.”

Virginia Military Institute Superintendent Cedric T. Wins salutes the colors during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Kasey Meredith was installed as the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)

VMI, founded as an all-male military college, was the nation's last state-supported college to become coeducational. The first women enrolled in 1997 after a legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday, the college honored the 592 cadets and alumni who have been killed in action with a parade. Until this year, the annual parade only honored the cadets who died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War’s Battle of New Market. The change comes amid a state-ordered investigation into racism on the campus.

Virginia Military Institute class of 2021 salute the flag during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Kasey Meredith was installed as the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)

Virginia Military Institute class of 2021 watch during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Kasey Meredith was installed as the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)

Virginia Military Institute Corp of Cadets march out of the barracks past cannons during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Kasey Meredith was installed as the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)

Virginia Military Institute Superintendent, Cedric T. Wins, addresses the class of 2021 during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Kasey Meredith was installed as the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)

Virginia Military Institute Corp of Cadets march out of the barracks during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Kasey Meredith was installed as the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)

Corps of Cadet Commander Kasey Meredith, of Johnstown, Pa., right, leads the corps during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Meredith will be the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)

Virginia Military Institute new Corps of Cadet Commander Kasey Meredith, of Johnstown, Pa., receives the regimental flag during a change of command parade and ceremony on the parade grounds at the school in Lexington, Va., Friday, May 14, 2021. Meredith will be the first female to lead the Virginia Military Institute's Corps of Cadets in its 182 year history. (AP PhotoSteve Helber)