Michelle Howard Promoted As First Black Female 4-Star Navy Officer

July 2, 2014  |  

Michelle Janine Howard made U.S. military history on July 1, becoming the first female four-star officer in the history of the U.S. Navy. She is also the first African-American female officer to achieve four-star ranking in the history of the military.

Adm. Howard was promoted at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. She also relieved Adm. Mark Ferguson II as the 38th vice chief of naval operations.  And, Smith is the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. 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,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who administered the oath of office, said, according to a press release.

“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 born of race, gender or religion but of skill and ability.”

Howard, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, joins a growing list of high-ranking blacks in the U.S. military and there are several women among them, including: Rear Adm. Annie B. Andrews, the director of the Total Force Requirements Division for the Navy and third African-American woman to achieve the rank of rear admiral;  Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson, who made history in 2011 when she become the Army’s first African-American woman to earn the rank of major-general; and Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham, the first woman to hold the position of commanding general for the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

There will probably be more black women military firsts to come as black women are enlisting in the military at far higher rates than are white or Hispanic women, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center. Black women at the time represented nearly a third of all the women in the armed forces, reports The New York Times.

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