The United States Navy has promoted Michelle Janine Howard to the rank of four-star admiral during a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of office, reports a US Navy News Service report.
Admiral Howard is the first female four-star in the 238 year history of the US Navy.
"Michelle Howard's promotion to the rank of admiral is the result of a brilliant naval career, one I fully expect to continue when she assumes her new role as vice chief of naval operations, but also it is a historic first, an event to be celebrated as she becomes the first female to achieve this position," said Mabus.
"Her accomplishment is a direct example of a Navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves - a nation where success is not borne of race, gender or religion, but of skill and ability," he added.
"Michelle's many trailblazing accomplishments in her 32 years of naval service are evidence of both her fortitude and commitment to excellence and integrity," said Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations. "I look forward to many great things to come from the Navy's newest 4-star Admiral!"
Howard, the Deputy CNO for Operations, Plans, and Strategy, will relieve Admiral Mark Ferguson III as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) later this afternoon.
Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo. She graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army's Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.
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Howard's initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley (AS 31) and USS Lexington (AVT 16). While serving on board Lexington, she received the secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership. She reported to USS Mount Hood (AE 29) as chief engineer in 1990 and served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as first lieutenant on board the USS Flint (AE 32) in July 1992. In January 1996, she became the executive officer of USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and deployed to the Adriatic in support of Operation Joint Endeavour, a peacekeeping effort in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Sixty days after returning from the Mediterranean deployment, Tortuga departed on a West African training cruise, where the ship's Sailors, with embarked Marines and US Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.
She took command of USS Rushmore (LSD 47) on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African American woman to command a ship in the US Navy. Howard was the commander of Amphibious Squadron Seven from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf. She commanded Expeditionary Strike Group Two from April 2009 to July 2010. In 2009, she deployed to CENTCOM theatre, where she commanded Task Force 151, Multi-national Counter-piracy effort, and Task Force 51, Expeditionary Forces. In 2010, she was the Maritime Task Force commander for BALTOPS, under 6th Fleet.
She was the 2011 USO Military Woman of the Year, and the 2013 NAACP Chairman's Image Award recipient.