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Former captain of U.S.S Rushmore, Navy’s first female 4-star admiral

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Michelle Howard crashed one of the military’s tallest glass ceilings yesterday when she was promoted to the rank of Four Star Admiral at a ceremony that was presided over by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Admiral Howard, 54, is a 32-year veteran of the Navy and was the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship. In 1999, Howard took the helm of the U.S.S. Rushmore, a Whidbey Island Class docking ship.

It has taken the Navy 238 years to promote a woman to this level. In her new post, Admiral Howard will be the 38th Vice Chief of Naval operations, the second highest-ranking office in the United States Navy. The Vice Chief is appointed by the President of the United States and must be confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate.

Michelle Howard was one of the unsung heroes behind the rescue of Maersk Alabama’s Captain Richard Phillips on Easter morning in 2009, in a coordinated effort with Navy ships and Navy SEAL sniper teams.

Vice Admiral Howard graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.

A native of Colorado, Admiral Howard was almost a newlywed when she and her Marine husband, Wayne Cowles, were both deployed to Operation Desert Storm. Her husband is now retired.

Capping an illustrious military career of many deployments, commendations, and assignments, Admiral Howard’s full online biography may be accessed here. CNN video clip of her promotion ceremony may be viewed here.

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