Navy Names First 4-Star Female Admiral

Service catches up with Army and Air Force

  • Share
  • Read Later
MC 3rd Class Ash Severe / US Navy

Then-Rear Adm. Michelle Howard serving as commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 2 in 2010.

President Obama nominated Vice Admiral Michelle Howard for a fourth star Friday, becoming the first woman in Navy history to attain the rank—assuming Senate approval—of full admiral.

She currently serves as deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans, and strategy. She has been tapped to serve as vice chief of naval operations, the Navy’s second-ranking officer, and a single step below the chief of naval operations, the service’s top officer.

“Someday, sure, there’ll be a woman CNO,” she presciently told Time nearly 14 years ago, when she was commanding the USS Rushmore, an amphibious dock landing ship, out of San Diego. “It will happen of its own accord.”

Howard steps up during a demanding time for the Navy, trying to pivot to the Pacific amid a funding crunch that has the service scrambling. “The best ambassador,” she likes to say, “is a warship.”

Her promotion comes in the wake of the Army’s decision to tap Ann Dunwoody for four stars in 2008, and the Air Force move to promote Janet Wolfenbarger to its highest rank in 2012. Time interviewed them together last year, shortly before Dunwoody retired.

According to the Pentagon’s latest demographic report, 14.5% of active-duty military personnel are women. They represent 13.5% of the Army, 16.4% of the Navy and 19% of the Air Force. Women account for only 6.8% of the Marine Corps, whose highest-ranking woman achieved three stars before retiring earlier this year.

“Men have the luxury of being average,” Howard said back in that January 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.”

Howard said that her command of a ship surprised people more because of her race—she is an African-American—than her gender. “For some of the sailors, it was a big deal—not because of the woman thing, but because of the African-American thing,” she recalled. “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.”

Howard, a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is used to breaking glass ceilings, as she did when she assumed command of the Rushmore in 1999. “Harbor pilots are surprised overseas,” she said at the time. “In Australia, the reaction was tremendous, especially from the women—`Oh good for you, we need to do this in our country!’ The men were: `Well, m’am, we don’t see your type around here.’”

Howard recalled early hostility from some in the Navy, believing she was shunted away from favored assignments that went to men she felt were less qualified. But that began to change. “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.”

120904-N-NX070-041

U.S. Navy / MC1 RJ Stratchko

Vice Adm. Michelle Howard greets President Obama at Norfolk Navy base in 2012.

She recalls the comments when she took an officer’s billet 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.”

In that interview on the bridge of the Rushmore in San Diego harbor, Howard said she was happy to be in command in the Navy rather than the Army. “It’s good to be a captain of a ship and not the colonel of a squadron,” she said. “I spent 1998 with the Army at the Command and General Staff College [at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.], and we talked a lot about how there is nothing else in the military like being the CO of a ship. You are out there on your own with your little city of folks, and the Navy provides us with a lot of management leeway that I don’t see in the other services. That’s driven by the demands of sea-going lifestyles—you need to have that level of control in order to maintain good order and discipline.”

She was asked whether it was tougher dealing with sexism or racism in the service. “Sexism within the service, and racism outside the service,” she responded. “Maybe that’s because we started to integrate the officer corps starting at the end of World War II, as far as race was concerned.”

Howard noted that she had come in for her share of ribbing as commander of the Rushmore at 39 (she’s 53 now). “There is one guy on board who refers to me as `Grandma,’” she said, “rather than the `Old Man.’”

146 comments
LamdaLamdaLamda
LamdaLamdaLamda

I wonder if Admiral Howard really has the "right stuff" . . .?

LarryGoulet
LarryGoulet

I am glad there so many here are willing to cast stones without even knowing the person who this article is about! Admiral Howard was my Division Officer when she was a lieutenant. In my 26 years in the Navy, I never met or served with a better officer!  She is extremely bright, smart, enthusiastic, and personable. She cares about the sailors down on the deckplates. One of her outstanding qualities is that she is a good listener, who is able to process input, and make a fair, logical decision. She always sought out the thoughts and opinions of the Chiefs who served under her. She is a person of great principles and soaring beliefs. The Navy would find itself in the headlines a lot less often if it had more officers like Michelle Janine Howard! I can think of no person - male or female - who is more deserving of being promoted to this exalted rank. And if chosen when the time comes, I think Admiral Howard will be an outstanding Chief of Naval Operations. It is my distinct pleasure and priviledge to have served with her! Congratulations, Admiral Howard!


Larry Goulet, Senior Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy (ret)

ws2491
ws2491

@LarryGoulet And I suppose you are G--?   We also knew these days were coming.


2 Timothy 2:1  This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3  (Without natural affection), trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4  Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5  Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: (from such turn away).

6  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

7  Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

haroldlewisblair
haroldlewisblair

Obama wants to be politically correct-regardless of who is the best man (or woman) Obama is a CON-MAN who likes to be liked but is corrupt to the bone- he always says what people want to hear but is a LIAR & FRAUD-

EYEONTHESCREEN
EYEONTHESCREEN

“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.”


True, but it only takes one "knucklehead" to ruin a career.  I once gave a 4.0 (water walker) fitness report to a female lieutenant who was my Personnel Division Officer.  It was knocked down to an ordinary rating by my CO upon his review.  Furious, I asked why he did that.


"She doesn't have command presence," was his answer.  Translated, she was female and tiny (about 5' 2").

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

I wish Admiral Howard congratulations, and the best of luck in her position!

SaraBernard
SaraBernard

I'm so proud to be a part of a service that does promote based on leadership-this appointment is based completely on merit. Several of my colleagues have had the opportunity to work for her and would follow her anywhere.  Although I was never privileged to serve under her, I have met ADM Howard, and she is truly intelligent, driven, and will continue to inspire and drive our Navy to be the best around. 

flashbyte
flashbyte

It figures Ovomite had something to do with it.  The liar king ...........

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@flashbyte Just like Obama. Through political correctness and affirmative action somebody got through the head of the line. Maybe her credentials and record are really exemplary. But so is Obama being a constitutional scholar and intelligence except he wont show his grades.

VirginiaVirginia
VirginiaVirginia

@ReneDemonteverde@IgnacioSanabria. He doesn't have to. Deal with it.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@IgnacioSanabria So is Obama. An accomplished Constitutional Scholar except he wont show his records, Harvard Law Review except there seems to be no record also of his legal dissertation or opinions while in college.

Fred_Johnson
Fred_Johnson

@ReneDemonteverde @IgnacioSanabria Barry is a fraud. He got no where, except that he was a communist, just like his real father, Frank Marshall Davis.

Barry is not Kenyan. That story is a fairy tale that moron Americans have fallen for. The US is like 1 giant group home for slow people. 

Gullible and easy distracted.


obamasrealfather

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

Congratulations and good luck to Admiral Howard. 

I'm getting the distinct impression that his is more about content of character and the qualifications that were met for this incredible promotion than it was about quotas.  Generally speaking the Navy operates by the former and not the latter.

I hope to see her excel in this new promotion.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@AlphaJuliette You are right. Congratulations and good luck. Especially to us and the country in general. Because in time of conflict let us hope Dear Leader made a wise and fair decision.

ScottHolme
ScottHolme

@ReneDemonteverde @AlphaJuliette       Rene, you're lucky your obnoxious references and contempt for our president (i.e. "Dear Leader") are completely baseless, otherwise you would be "disappeared."  

jt35
jt35

congrats to her. the few times i've seen on her on tv she's seemed very professional and gracious.  only the ignorant would believe that she could acheive this level of success without merit.  no one, no one is going to put their reputation on the line to keep promoting someone after a certain point unless they're confident it's not going to come back to haunt them.  and her husband seemed very supportive of her. and he happens to be white.  so kudos admiral howard. thanks for your service.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jt35 So is Kathleen Sebelius except for the roll out she was also very professional and gracious. And Hillary Clinton except for the Benghazi debacle she was also very professional and gracious. And so was our eminent war hero John Kerry when he testified wrongfully against his comrade in arms. He looked professional and gracious. And so on. All Obama`s appointees were professional and gracious. But it takes a challenging event that bring out their incompetence. Watch for Caroline Kennedy. She is also professional and gracious. In the meantime China and Japan are at each other throats. Let us see what she will do.

ScottHolme
ScottHolme

@ReneDemonteverde  you are the poster child for "testifying wrongfully" about people.   


LOL at partisan conspiracy theorists!

LarryGoulet
LarryGoulet

@ReneDemonteverde@jt35Admiral Howard HAS had her chance (actually many of them) to prove her competence! Perhaps you are not aware that she was the officer-in-charge of the task force and operation that rescued the captain of the Maersk Alabama who was captured by Somali pirates? Before you go spewing your drivel here, you should get your facts straight! Me thinks your bigoted, Freudian slip is showing!


Larry Goulet, Senior Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy (ret)

bornfree.gonnabe
bornfree.gonnabe

@jt35  

JT35 is just barely alive and we know that the truth gives him so much grief

He wants all of you to do what he does…kiss the racist behind of the Liar-In-Chief !!!

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

WASHINGTON – President Obama this year alone has fired some nine generals and flag officers, on top of at least four similar dismissals during his first term, suggesting that a purge may be the real reason behind the removals.
The military is looked upon as one of the last bastions of conservative ideas, even though under the Obama administration, it, too, has become a testing ground for social experimentation. The efforts include openly homosexual behavior and women in combat.

Brandyjack
Brandyjack

On board a ship at sea, the Captain is God and Dad at the same time. Don't see much difference in God and Mom at the same time. Being a deity and parent to dozens, hundreds or thousands of sailors requires real leadership, and that ain't an attribute belonging to any special sex, just a human being of unusual ability.

ws2491
ws2491

@Brandyjack

But you haven't or don't believe the Bible, thinking man can change the word to what & when he likes.