Michelle Howard

  (Redirected from Michelle J. Howard)

Michelle Janine Howard (born April 30, 1960) is a retired United States Navy four-star admiral who last served as the commander of United States Naval Forces Europe while she concurrently served as the commander of United States Naval Forces Africa and commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples. She previously served as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations. She assumed her last assignment on June 7, 2016.[2]

Michelle J. Howard
Admiral Michelle J. Howard VCNO.jpg
Born (1960-04-30) April 30, 1960 (age 60)
March Air Force Base, California
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1982–2017
Commands heldUnited States Naval Forces Europe - Naval Forces Africa
Allied Joint Force Command Naples
Vice Chief of Naval Operations
USS Rushmore
Amphibious Squadron 7
Expeditionary Strike Group Two
Task Force Two Zero
Battles/warsGulf War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Defense Superior Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (3)
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy Commendation Medal (4)
Navy Achievement Medal
Spouse(s)Wayne Cowles[1]

Howard has achieved many historical firsts throughout her naval career. She was the first African-American woman to command a United States Navy ship,[3] USS Rushmore,[4][5] and the first to achieve two- and three-star rank. In 2006, she was selected for the rank of rear admiral (lower half),[6] making her the first admiral selected from the United States Naval Academy class of 1982 and the first female graduate of the United States Naval Academy selected for flag rank. On July 1, 2014, Howard was appointed Vice Chief of Naval Operations the second highest ranking officer in the navy.

Upon her swearing in Howard became the highest ranking woman in United States Armed Forces history, and the highest ranking African-American and woman in navy history.[7][8] Howard also became the first female four-star admiral to command operational forces, when she assumed command of United States Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa. Howard retired on 1 December 2017 after nearly 36 years of service in the United States Navy.

Early life and educationEdit

Howard was born at March Air Force Base in California, the daughter of former United States Air Force master sergeant, Nick Howard, and his British wife, Phillipa. She is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1982 and from the United States Army's Command and General Staff College in 1998 with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.

Naval careerEdit

Howard meeting with U.S. Navy sailors aboard USS Fort McHenry in July 2009
Howard gives a speech at the New York Mercantile Exchange in June 2010, during Fleet Week.

Howard's initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley and USS Lexington. While serving on board USS Lexington, she received the Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership. She reported to USS Mount Hood as Chief Engineer in 1990 and served in the Gulf War, during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as First Lieutenant on board USS Flint in July 1992. In January 1996, she became the Executive Officer of USS Tortuga and deployed to the Adriatic in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a peacekeeping effort in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. Sixty days after returning from the Mediterranean deployment, Tortuga departed on a West African Training Cruise, where the ship's sailors, with embarked U.S. Marines and U.S. Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.

Howard assumed command of USS Rushmore on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the United States Navy. Howard commanded Amphibious Squadron 7 from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Persian Gulf.

Howard addressing the crew of USS Wasp in December 2009

Howard's shore assignments include: Course Coordinator/Instructor for the Steam Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) course; Action Officer and Navy's liaison to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Military Services (DACOWITS) in the Bureau of Personnel; Action Officer J-3, Global Operations, Readiness on the Joint Staff from 2001–2003; Executive Assistant to the Joint Staff Director of Operations from February 2003 to February 2004; and Deputy Director N3 on the OPNAV Staff from December 2005 to July 2006.

Howard was the Deputy Director, Expeditionary Warfare Division, OPNAV staff from July 2006 to December 2006, and senior military assistant to the secretary of the Navy January 2007 – January 2009. She served as chief of staff to the director for Strategic Plans and Policy, J-5, Joint Staff from August 2010 until July 2012.[3] From August 2012 to July 2013 VAdm Howard served as Deputy Commander United States Fleet Forces Command headquartered in Norfolk, Va.

Howard assumed command of Expeditionary Strike Group 2 and Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer in April 2009. Boxer was the flagship for CTF 151, a multinational task force established to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. She played a key role in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, whose kidnapping by Somali pirates became a major motion picture film.[9]

Howard was promoted to rear admiral (lower half), effective September 1, 2007 and to rear admiral, effective August 1, 2010. She was promoted to vice admiral on August 24, 2012.

On July 1, 2014, Howard was promoted to admiral. She became the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations the same day.[10]

After Howard retired from the navy on December 1, 2017, she became the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Visiting Professor of International Affairs at George Washington University, teaching cybersecurity and international policy.[11] International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) announced that it appointed Howard to its board, effective March 1, 2019.[12]

Dates of ranksEdit

Rank Date
  Rear admiral (lower half) September 1, 2007
  Rear admiral August 1, 2010
  Vice admiral August 24, 2012
  Admiral July 1, 2014[6]

Awards and decorationsEdit

Joint Chiefs of Staff Badge
Surface Warfare Officer Pin
Defense Distinguished Service Medal | Navy Distinguished Service Medal w/ 1 gold award star
Defense Superior Service Medal w/ 1 bronze oak leaf cluster Legion of Merit w/ 2 award stars Meritorious Service Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ 3 award stars Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Joint Meritorious Unit Award w/ 2 oak leaf clusters
Navy Unit Commendation Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation w/ 3 bronze service stars Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation with "O" device
National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Southwest Asia Service Medal w/ 1 service star
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Armed Forces Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon w/ 1 silver service star National Order of the Legion of Honour (Knight) (France)
NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Command at Sea insignia
Allied Joint Force Command Naples

Howard is the recipient of the 2008 Women of Color Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Career Achievement Award, 2009 Dominion Power Strong Men and Women Excellence in Leadership Award,[13] and the 2011 USO Military Woman of the Year.[14]

On February 1, 2013, Howard was honored with the "Chairman's Award" at the 44th NAACP Image Awards.[14] She is a 1987 recipient of the Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins Award.

On June 13, 2015, Howard was awarded the Doctor of Public Service honorary degree from the American Public University System for her many years of service in the United States Navy, her contribution to the advancement of women in the United States Military, and to her continued service to the people of the United States and around the world.

In popular cultureEdit

  • A female voice identified as "Admiral Howard" is included in the 2013 film, Captain Phillips. By radio, Admiral Howard coordinated the rescue of the ship’s commander, later depicted in the movie.[15]

See alsoEdit


  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Navy document: "Vice Admiral Michelle Howard".

  1. ^ Lerman, David; Walcott, John (December 20, 2013). "Black Woman Named to a Top U.S. Navy Job Says Wimps Fail". Bloomberg Politics. Bloomberg, L.P. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  2. ^ "Une femme noire amiral à la tête du commandement militaire de l'Otan à Naples". www.45enord.ca (in French). Agence France-Presse. June 7, 2016. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "US Navy Biography – Michelle Howard". US Navy. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  4. ^ Klausner, Alexandra (December 14, 2013). "President Obama nominates the first ever female 4-star Navy admiral". Daily Mail. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  5. ^ "Navy Celebrates 2014 African American/Black History Month". US Navy. Retrieved July 1, 2014. Vice Adm. Michelle Howard is recognized for many first accomplishments, including the recognition as the first female United States Naval Academy graduate to be promoted to the rank of admiral, the first black female to command a combatant ship, and the first black female promoted to two-star and three-star admiral. She has also been confirmed by the Senate to serve as Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the service's No. 2 uniformed officer. She will be the first black and first woman to hold the job and the first female four-star admiral.
  6. ^ a b "Flag Officer Announcements". Defense.gov. May 4, 2006. Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  7. ^ Lamothe, Dan (July 1, 2014). "Adm. Michelle Howard becomes first four-star woman in Navy history". The Washington Post. Washington, DC US. Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  8. ^ Bahrampour, Tara. "Meet the Highest-Ranking Woman in U.S. Naval History". Glamour. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  9. ^ Devan Coffaro (April 18, 2016). "First African American woman to command Navy ship in Mobile". Fox News wtvm. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  10. ^ "US Navy promotes first woman to four-star admiral". Washington DC News.Net. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
  11. ^ Feiner, Lauren (February 26, 2019). "IBM just appointed the first African-American woman to command a US Navy ship to its board". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  12. ^ Feiner, Lauren (February 26, 2019). "IBM just appointed the first African-American woman to command a US Navy ship to its board". CNBC. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  13. ^ "2009 Honorees". Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  14. ^ a b "Chairman's Award". NAACP. Archived from the original on December 29, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  15. ^ Martinez, Luis; Dukakis, Alexandra; Thornton, Tom; Carlson, Chris; Bob; McHenry; Curley, David (October 11, 2013). "Saving Captain Phillips: Meet one of the real-life heroes behind the new movie". Power Players. ABC News. Retrieved February 16, 2014.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Mark E. Ferguson III
Vice Chief of Naval Operations
Succeeded by
William F. Moran
Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples
Succeeded by
James G. Foggo III
Commander of United States Naval Forces Europe - Naval Forces Africa