WASHINGTON ― The Navy has its first female four-star admiral.
She is Michelle Janine Howard, promoted on Tuesday to the service’s highest rank. The ceremony was held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery, near the Pentagon.
She will serve as the vice chief of naval operations, which makes her the No. 2 admiral in the Navy behind Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations.
“Michelle Howard’s promotion to the rank of admiral is the result of a brilliant naval career, one I fully expect to continue when she assumes her new role as vice chief of naval operations, but also it is an historic first, an event to be celebrated as she becomes the first female to achieve this position,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of office. “Her accomplishment is a direct example of a Navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves ― a nation where success is not born of race, gender or religion, but of skill and ability.”
Howard has served 32 years in the Navy. She is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998 with a master’s degree in military arts and sciences.
Howard took command of USS Rushmore on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. She was the commander of Amphibious Squadron 7 from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf. She commanded Expeditionary Strike Group 2 from April 2009 to July 2010. In 2009, Howard deployed to the U.S. Central Command theater, where she commanded the Task Force 151 multinational counterpiracy effort and Task Force 51 expeditionary forces. In 2010, she was the Maritime Task Force commander for Baltic operations under 6th Fleet.
Howard was the USO Military Woman of the Year for 2011 and the NAACP Chairman’s Image Award recipient in 2013.