In its 236 years of existence, the U.S. Navy has never had a female four-star admiral — until now. Vice Admiral Michelle Howard was just promoted to an admiral and is now the Navy’s new vice chief of naval operations, which is the branch’s number two position. (The Air Force and the Army have both named women as four-star officers in the past.) As if Howard weren’t already enough of a badass, she was also the first Black woman to command a Navy ship.
Howard graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982, and says there are many more opportunities for female military members than back when she first began her career. She told the Navy Times, ”now I think about it all these years later, the combat exclusion law was repealed and women can serve on all classes of ships, all types of aircraft. And then the last couple of years, opening up the submarines to women — it’s significant.”
Hoard also mentioned that among the support she’s received, there have also been “individuals who didn’t want me there or wanted to undermine what I was trying to do.” A 2013 Navy report even found that a jerk of a colleague had tried to spread the belief that her promotion was sped up due to her race and gender, a fact that is absurd enough on its own without the fact that several other high-ranking Navy members spoke out against the rumor. A few months ago, Rear Admiral Sonny Masso spoke to the Navy Times in Howard’s defense, saying that she is “absolutely and emphatically not … a token female, a token African-American, or anything like that…she has brought an extraordinary amount of experience that is equal to any of her peers.” How depressing that this even needed to be addressed. If anything, I’d imagine that Howard had to work harder than most of her peers.
A promotion ceremony was held for her on Tuesday morning at Arlington National Cemetery. When she spoke about the honor, she gave her thanks to her fellow service members for getting her to where she is today:
“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.”
What a hero.