Virginia Tech Magazine
Virginia Tech

Making History: Cadet one of first women to serve on Navy nuclear submarine


Kasey Beernink '11
Duane Stevens, Stevens Photography
Kasey Beernink '11
Kasey Beernink (chemistry '11) has been chosen for nuclear submarine duty by the U.S. Navy, earning distinction as the first female from Virginia Tech and one of the first in the entire Navy to be chosen for such duty. Beernink is following in the naval-commissioning footsteps of her older sister, Krista (chemistry '08), who is currently a naval flight officer flying the P-3 Orion patrol aircraft.

Beernink grew up in a Navy family. At age 7, she toured a submarine while her family was stationed in Naples, Italy, and she found her calling. At the time, women were prohibited from submarine service. Last year, that policy changed; during her summer training, Beernink spent a week aboard the USS Alaska as part of the integration of women on submarines. The experience solidified her decision to drive submarines. She aspires to be among the first female submarine commanders in the Navy.

For her efforts, the Women's Center at Virginia Tech awarded Beernink its Advancing Women Award. In the award nomination package, Capt. Dan Forney, professor of naval science, stated that Beernink has "set the bar" for pioneering young women.

Lt. Cmdr. Suzanne Schang (communication '01), who recently took command of the mine countermeasures ship USS Patriot, reached out to Beernink as a mentor. "You are a trailblazer. As a service member, you are less than 1 percent of the American population," Schang wrote to Beernink. "Your journey in life is very personal to you, but recognize what your journey means to others, literally and symbolically. What you are doing will make it easier for others to follow you and break newer ground to the next step. ... This is a huge responsibility, but it's also a huge honor." Like Beernink, Schang was a member of the Highty-Tighties.

Beernink's selection is already a cause for pride among alumni. Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Laura Yambrick (political science '87) was proud to be counted in the first class of naval officers commissioned under the newly established NROTC program in the mid-1980s. "Looking back, it seems odd to think that when I joined the Navy, women weren't allowed to serve onboard ships or fly combat aircraft. So you can imagine how excited I was to hear that a Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets graduate would be among the first women to serve onboard a naval submarine," Yambrick said.

We wish Ensign Beernink the very best of luck on active duty and look forward to following her progress. Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Col. Rock Roszak '71, U.S. Air Force (retired), is the alumni director for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.


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Summer 2011