It took 178 years, but a woman has taken the helm of the U.S. Naval Academy for the first time.

At a Thursday ceremony, Vice Adm. Yvette M. Davids assumed command of the Annapolis military college from Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, the interim superintendent.

Midshipmen, alumni, active-duty military members and others filed into Memorial Hall on a crisp, sunny day to mark the historic occasion.

“The Naval Academy bears the torch for our culture, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve as keeper of the flame,” said Davids, who as a Mexican American also becomes the first Latina to hold the post. Past superintendents were all white men.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and Adm. Lisa Franchetti, the chief of naval operations, praised Davids’ career and credentials.

“She is indeed the very representative of everything that makes America special. Regardless of our race, our gender, where we came from, who we love, our nation, these United States provide opportunities to excel to those who work for it,” Del Toro said. “… Vice Adm. Davids, your career has led you to this moment. I could not be more excited for you to lead this school that we both love so much.”

Yvette Davids
Vice Adm. Yvette Davids is the first woman and first Latina to lead the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. (Courtesy: U.S. Naval .)

The change-of-command ceremony came nearly nine months after Davids was nominated by President Joe Biden for promotion to vice admiral and to become the first woman to lead the academy.

Senate confirmation came swiftly after U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville lifted a monthslong blockade of hundreds of military promotions, including Davids’, over his opposition to a Pentagon policy permitting travel cost coverage for service members and their families seeking abortions in states where it’s presently illegal.

The academy’s top job represents a career-capping move for Davids, a 1989 academy graduate. Kacher assumed command on an interim basis after the previous superintendent, Vice. Adm. Sean Buck, retired Sept. 1.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

During the ceremony, Del Toro announced that Kacher will be enshrined in the academy’s history books as the 64th superintendent.

“I am confident that this team has excelled over the last five months, in large part because of your inspirational leadership and your strategic vision,” Franchetti told Kacher. “You were without a doubt the right person at the right time with the right level of energy and experience to step up and assume this consequential role,” Franchetti said.

Davids also expressed her appreciation to Kacher.

“It has been a privilege serving alongside you these many years, and I’m so thankful to take the reins from a leader and dear friend who I so admire and deeply respect. I think the qualifications of a Naval officer were scribed with you in mind,” Davids said.

Kacher’s speech moved the crowd to a standing ovation.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“For the second time in my life, I can say I leave the United States Naval Academy more grateful and more prepared for the adventure ahead, where I plan to do my utmost to earn this nation’s trust every day,” said Kacher, a 1990 academy graduate. Kacher has been confirmed for promotion to vice admiral and is set to assume command of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan.

Yvette Davids, while serving as commanding officer of guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill in 2014, looks on as her crew brings supplies aboard at sea. Now a vice admiral, Davids has been nominated as the first woman Naval Academy superintendent.
Yvette Davids, while serving as commanding officer of guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill in 2014, looks on as her crew brings supplies aboard at sea. (Courtesy Of The Navy Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Public)

Among Davids’ challenges will be confronting a rise in reported sexual assaults at the Annapolis academy.

Reported sexual assaults at U.S. military academies shot up during the 2021-22 school year, and one in five female students told an anonymous survey that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact, the Pentagon said in March.

The Naval Academy had nearly double the number of reported assaults in 2022, compared with 2021. It’s unclear whether the phasing out of COVID-19 restrictions contributed to the increase, but Buck had called the findings “extremely disappointing,” adding, “The current situation is unacceptable, and we must improve our culture.”

Davids, a native of San Antonio, Texas, received a bachelor’s degree in oceanography from the Naval Academy, according to an online Navy profile. She got two graduate degrees — a Master of Arts in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College and a master’s in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces — and served on various naval assignments.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

She became the first Hispanic American woman to command a Navy warship after becoming commander of the USS Curts in 2007, deploying in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The following year, she received the Mexican American Women’s National Association’s Las Primeras Award for the achievement. The award honors “Latinas who demonstrate important ‘firsts’ in their fields with a national impact,” according to a news release last year.

Davids also commanded the USS Bunker Hill and the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, and she served as senior military adviser to the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs and as chief of staff for the U.S. Southern Command, according to her profile. In August, she became acting director of Naval Surface Forces and acting commander of Naval Surface Force for the Pacific Fleet.

Davids is married to another admiral on active duty: Rear Adm. Keith Davids, an academy graduate who leads the Naval Special Warfare Command.

Franchetti said she was confident Davids would excel at the academy, as she has throughout her career. “You are breaking some new ground here, and I know you’re the right person to do it,” she said.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

This story has been updated to clarify Yvette Davids' ethnicity and the rank of Fred Kacher, the former interim superintendent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Royale Bonds attended Southern Illinois University. Go Salukis! She previously worked as an affordable housing reporter in Greenville, South Carolina. Royale enjoys long naps, snacking and endless scrolling on social media. She looks forward to reporting on Anne Arundel County and covering the stories that matter. 

More From The Banner