Later this year, Vice Admiral Michelle Howard will become the first woman to earn the Navy’s four-star admiral rank.
Her assignment as the Navy’s second in command, vice chief of naval operations, comes after President Obama’s nomination and Senate confirmation in December. Howard, 53, rose to the four-star rank three years faster than Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey. She is also higher on the four-star totem pole than Army General Ann Dunwoody (now retired) and Air Force General Janet Wolfenbarger.
As the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship, Howard’s 32 years in the service are filled with impressive milestones.
“When men walk onto a ship, on board they have the luxury of being average. When you walk in as a woman, that assumption does not come with you — you need to prove yourself,” Howard told Time.
Less than a week into her new job as head of a Navy counter piracy force, Howard learned that
cargo ship Maersk Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates back in 2009. She was tasked with negotiating with the Somali pirates who kidnapped the ship’s captain in a lifeboat. After two days, a team of Navy SEALS shot the pirates on the lifeboat and recused Captain Phillips.
The Marine Corps, have yet to pin a fourth star on a woman. In 1996, Carol Mutter was the first female to become a three-star Marine.
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