On July 1, Navy Admiral Michelle J. Howard became the first African American and first woman in that position in U.S. Naval history. (file photo)
On July 1, Navy Admiral Michelle J. Howard became the first African American and first woman in that position in U.S. Naval history. Howard accepted the award at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. According to news reports, this the latest achievement for Howard, who had also been the first African American woman to command a United States Navy ship.
“[Howard’s] promotion is a representation of how far we have come and how far she has helped bring us,” said Ray Mabus, Navy Secretary.
Howard was born April 30, 1960 at the March Air Force Base in Riverside County. Her father Nick Howard, is a former U.S. Air Force master sergeant. She is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and from the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998 with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.
Howard’s first sea tours were aboard the USS Hunley (AS-31) and the USS Lexington (AVT-16). While serving on board USS 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 the Persian Gulf War, during 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 Endeavor, 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 U.S. Marines and U.S. Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.
Howard took command of USS Rushmore (LSD-47) on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy from May 2004 to September 2005. By 2007, she was promoted to rear admiral and eventually to vice admiral in August 2012.
“[Howard] a great example of how much we as a nation and a Navy lose if we put artificial barriers in, if we don’t judge people based on their ability, based on their capability,” Maybus said during a ceremony honoring Howard.
“I hope I have always been passionate about that, but I know the intensity has increased since I am the father of three daughters, and I refuse to believe that there are any ceilings for them, glass or otherwise. That they can get to wherever their abilities can take them. And with that, they and countless others in the Navy now have a wonderful role model in Michelle Howard.”
“There is no news here today,” Maybus added, “because the Navy picked the best officer, Howard, for her new job.”
Howard is married to Wayne Cowles, a retired U.S. Marine. She is the recipient of the 2008 Women of Color Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Career Achievement Award, 2009 Dominion Power Strong Men and Women Excellence in Leadership Award, and the 2011 USO Military Woman of the Year.