Vice Admiral Michelle Howard Could Become The First Black Female To Hold The No. 2 Spot In The Navy

December 20, 2013  |  

Vice Admiral Michelle Howard may become the first ever four-star female admiral in the U.S. Navy. President Obama has nominated Howard to become the vice chief of naval operations. If approved by the Senate, will be the first woman in Navy history to reach the rank of full admiral. She will also be the first African-American to hold the Navy’s No. 2 position, reports Atlanta Black Star.

Howard is currently deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans, and strategy. If promoted to vice chief of naval operations, she would be just one step below the chief of naval operations, the service’s top officer.

“Someday, sure, there’ll be a woman CNO,” Howard presciently told Time in January 2000, when she was commanding the USS Rushmore. Howard took over command of the Rushmore in 1999, becoming the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy warship. And she was also the first female Naval Academy graduate to become a rear-admiral, reports Atlanta Black Star.

Though Howard has risen up the ranks, it wasn’t always easy. According to the Pentagon’s latest data, 14.5 percent of active-duty military personnel are women, representing 13.5 percent of the Army, 16.4 percent of the Navy and 19 percent of the Air Force. And women account for only 6.8 percent of the Marine Corps, whose highest-ranking female officer reached three stars before retiring earlier this year, reports Time.

“Men have the luxury of being average,” Howard told Time in the 2000 interview. “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.”

But according to Howard, her command of a ship surprised people more because of her race—she is an African-American—than her gender. “I literally had people coming up, wanting to have their picture taken with me—this is the first time this has happened, where a minority woman has had command of a ship,” she recalled.

Howard also had to deal with sexism. Howard, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982,  told Time of early hostility in the Navy, believing she was overlooked  for assignments that went to less qualified men. “What’s great about the Navy is that despite the few knuckleheads that exist,” she said, “there are a lot of folks who are professional, and who will grade you on your performance and not on how you look.”

Howard even recalled the sexist remarks when she took an officer’s slot on a warship with a woman also serving as second-in-command. “I was not prepared for the focus on it—`My God, there’s a warship with two women in the top positions—it’s going to sink just from their presence.’ It was hilarious.”

Let’s hope she keeps ignoring the haters. Good luck to her!

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