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Female Four Star Admiral: Michelle J. Howard Is A First For U.S. Navy

A female four star admiral in the U.S. Navy seemed like an impossibility just a generation or two ago, but the impossible came to pass on Tuesday as the U.S. Navy promoted Michelle J. Howard to full, four star admiral.

The U.S. Navy has lagged a bit behind its land and air based counterparts in that respect. The U.S. Army promoted its first female four star general, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, in 2008 and the U.S. Air Force pinned the fourth star on its first female to hold the equivalent rank, Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, in 2012.

Admiral Howard, the first female four star admiral in the U.S. Navy’s 238 year history, has been named Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the second highest position in the United States Navy, according to an AFP report out of Washington. This latest accomplishment is just the latest in a long string of trailblazing achievements for Michelle J. Howard.

Howard’s naval career began at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, at a time when there weren’t many female cadets. Graduating in 1982, then-Ensign Howard and others like her blazed a trail that many women have followed into careers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. According to the AFP report, nearly one in four of this year’s Naval Academy graduates were women. One can only wonder whether even Michelle Howard believed at that time that she could rise to become the Navy’s first female four star admiral.

Admiral Howard’s trailblazing didn’t stop there. According to a report in the CS Monitor, in 1999, she became the first African American female to command a U.S. naval ship, the landing vessel U.S.S. Rushmore. Howard would then go on to distinguish herself in 2009, while in command of an anti-piracy task force that rescued Richard Phillips, captain of a civilian cargo ship who had been abducted by Somali pirates.

In the type of frank humility common amongst the best military commanders, the Navy’s first female four star admiral deflected credit to the sailors and Marines who have served under and alongside her, via the Huffington Post.

“Willingness to step up and contribute to a noble cause in your life is a sign of true selflessness. Our sailors and Marines are this legacy. They are volunteers and, with every mission, they demonstrate our core values, values our founders would have understood — courage, honor, commitment.”

Michelle Howard’s contemporaries speak highly of her, making it clear that her promotion to become the first female four star admiral is not some kind of equal opportunity quota-driven promotion. The Huff Post quotes Rear Admiral Sonny Masso saying this of Admiral Howard:

“Do I think she’s a token female, a token African-American, or anything like that? I would say absolutely and emphatically not. Her performance and critical jobs across the spectrum… she has brought an extraordinary amount of experience that is equal to any of her peers.”

We join a grateful nation in wishing Admiral Michelle J. Howard, a true trailblazer, congratulations and continued success as the Navy’s first female four star admiral.

[Image via Bing]