Michelle Howard became the first woman promoted to four-star admiral in the Navy’s 236-year history. That rank also makes her vice chief of naval operations, meaning she is the number two admiral in the service.
She has accomplished many firsts in her lifetime, including becoming the first African-American woman to command a naval ship and the first to be promoted to a three-star officer in the U.S. Military. 54-year-old Michelle Howard was presented with her four-star shoulder boards on Thursday during a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
“If you don’t believe today was a first, when I called to order four-star shoulder boards for women, they didn’t exist,” Howard said during the ceremony. “You folks are seeing the first set in the United States Navy.”
Michelle Howard is best known for leading the strike force that accomplished the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips after he was taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009.
Michelle Howard said of her difficult and impressive rise through the ranks of the Navy, “For those of us [women] who started in the service academies in those years, there were people who did not want us there. The men did not want us there,” recalls Howard. “So there were physical challenges as well as mental challenges.”
Michelle Howard was often the only woman on board a ship. She said that she found these types of situations to be among the greatest challenges of her career. “There is not someone else there who has a shared experience set, or even a common way of communication…there is an additional set of pressures and stressors that come with that, that you have to figure out how to work your way through.”
Well she certainly figured it out! What’s her secret?
“Maintain your sense of humor,” she said.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said of the historic choice, “There is no news here. The Navy picked the best officer to be [vice chief of naval operations]. That is the only thing that happened here today.”
Congratulations to Michelle Howard on such an inspiring accomplishment!
Image via YouTube