On December 20, 2013, the Senate confirmed African American Vice Admiral Michelle Howard as the U.S. Navy’s first ever female four-star admiral. Howard is not only the first woman but the first black person to be named the Navy’s new Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Vice Admiral Howard began making history in 1999 when she took charge of the USS Rushmore. She was the first black woman to command a naval ship.
The Annapolis native received her Military Arts and Sciences from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998. She has survived life-threatening challenges, including time served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She is also a survivor of the September 11th attack on the U.S. Pentagon. She was inside the building when the commercial airplane hit. As she rose through the ranks of the Navy, the Vice Admiral faced some discrimination from those who didn’t believe she was capable of accomplishing all of the tasks, of which she has proven, time and again, to succeed.
In 2009, Howard led a U.S. command warship against Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. Task Force 151 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 Michele Howard to save the captain before the boat hit shore. She, along with the assistance of Navy SEALS, captured the ship, killing all but one of the pirates and bringing the captain out safely. Her voice is depicted in the film “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks, which relives the task force mission.
Vice Admiral Michelle Howard will report directly to Chief Naval Officer Admiral Jonathan Greenert.