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Vice Admiral Michelle Howard has become the first black woman in the U.S. armed forces to reach the rank of a three-star officer. Howard is based in Norfolk, Virginia and graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

In 1999, Vice Admiral Howard became the first black woman to command an American warship. She is also a survivor of the September 11th attacks on the U.S. Pentagon. She was inside the building when the commercial plane hit.

In 2009, Howard led a U.S. command warship against Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. The job became a rescue mission for Richard Phillips, the Captain of the Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage on the ship’s lifeboat. It was up to Vice Admiral Howard to save the captain before the boat hit shore. She, along with the assistance of Navy SEALs, captured the ship, killing all three pirates and bringing the Captain out safely.

The Vice Admiral has felt discrimination as she climbed up the ladder. Some people tried to undermine her authority as she rose up the ranks and didn’t think she had a place as a commanding officer. Despite, she pressed forward, with a dedication that led to her historical appointment as a three-star officer.