Cal Maritime names first female captain of training ship

(VALLEJO, Calif.) — California State University Maritime Academy has appointed Samaro Bannister-Schneider as interim captain of the training ship Golden Bear. A Cal Maritime alumna with an extensive career in marine transportation, she will serve as the first female captain of the ship.

“Captain Bannister is an experienced master mariner who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Cal Maritime and I know that every cadet will benefit immensely from her leadership on training ship Golden Bear,” said Cal Maritime President Thomas A. Cropper. “She is a superb and welcome addition to our talented team of faculty and staff, who represent the diverse range of dedicated professionals who make our national maritime industry successful.”

Cal Maritime photo

Golden Bear serves as the primary training platform on which cadets apply technological skills introduced in the classroom and leadership skills acquired from their work assignments and responsibilities with the Corps of Cadets. Each summer, cadets in their first and third years depart with licensed faculty officers for two months during the annual training cruise.

Samaro Bannister-Schneider

Bannister-Schneider is a 2000 graduate of Cal Maritime’s marine transportation program and a master mariner who holds an unlimited master’s license. She began her career on a fleet of small waterplane area twin hull (SWATH) research vessels conducting survey operations. Soon after, she moved up to a larger fleet of vessels, the Watson-class LMSR ro-ros, where she found her home.

She spent over 14 years sailing the deep sea with Maersk Line Ltd. and Ocean Ships Inc. in senior and junior positions. She worked in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and also served in senior positions for Joint Logistics Over the Sea (JLOTS) off Guatemala in 2007 and off Lynnhaven, Va. in 2008.

The last six years of her deep-sea service were spent as commanding officer of USNS Soderman. In 2014, she moved shore side to start a family and begin a new chapter. In her off time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband swimming, paddleboarding, hiking and biking.

“It is with a full heart and great enthusiasm that I return to California State University Maritime Academy,” said Bannister-Schneider. “When I heard the training ship Golden Bear was in need of a captain, my compass went true and I knew this was an incredible opportunity to give back. Cal Maritime opened doors and prepared me for a unique career of being a merchant mariner. My time spent and education received allowed the dreams of a small-town girl from Colorado to become a reality.

“I am beyond appreciative for the years spent sailing deep sea, and for the amazing mentors whose knowledge helped me solve difficulties encountered on my journeys,” she continued. “I am appreciative of my recent time teaching at Training Resources Maritime Institute. I am especially grateful for my husband Jack and daughter Madeline who will be joining me and for my parents, Jim and Kent Milski, whose sense of adventure and unwavering support were the catalyst for my career. I look forward to leading the next generation of merchant mariners into this exciting field. I am thrilled to be the new captain of (Golden Bear) and look forward to meeting you all.”

– Cal Maritime

By Rich Miller