Navy History: Admiral Michelle Howard Becomes First Woman to Be Awarded Four Stars

Julissa Catalan, Diversity Inc, July 3, 2014

U.S. Navy history was made on Tuesday when Admiral Michelle Howard was officially promoted to Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO), making her the first woman and first Black person in the Navy’s 236 years to become a four-star admiral.

Howard’s new rank makes her the No. 2 officer in the service.

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While honoring Howard at the ceremony, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called her promotion a “representation of how far we have come, and how far she has helped bring us.”

“She is also a great example of how much we as a nation and a Navy lose if we put artificial barriers in, if we don’t judge people based on their ability, based on their capability,” Mabus added. “I hope I have always been passionate about that, but I know the intensity has increased since I am the father of three daughters, and I refuse to believe that there are any ceilings for them, glass or otherwise. That they can get to wherever their abilities can take them. And with that, they and countless others in the Navy now have a wonderful role model in Michelle Howard.”

Michelle Howard

Michelle Howard

Howard is no stranger to making history. Before this milestone, she was the first Black woman to serve as a three-star officer in the U.S. military, and was also the first woman in history to command a U.S. Navy ship–the USS Rushmore, an amphibious dock landing ship, in 1999.

The admiral–who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and went on to receive a master’s degree in Military Arts and Sciences from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998–served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and also took part in tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia before taking command of Expeditionary Strike Group Two in April 2009.

Howard is best known for leading Combined Task Force 151–which coordinated the rescue of the captain of the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, from Somali pirates.

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