Admiral Michelle Howard serves as vice chief of naval operations, the second most senior officer in the U.S. Navy. She took on the role in July 2014 following presidential appointment and Senate confirmation.
Howard has served at sea since 1982. Her initial tours were aboard the USS Hunley and USS Lexington. While serving on board Lexington, she received the Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins Award, presented annually to a female officer who demonstrates outstanding leadership.
She reported to USS Mount Hood as chief engineer in 1990 and served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as first lieutenant of the USS Flint in 1992. In 1996 she became 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. Following that, Tortuga departed on a West African training mission in which sailors, U.S. Marines and Coast Guard personnel operated with naval services of seven African nations.
In 1999 Howard became the first African American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, USS Rushmore, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship. She commanded Amphibious Squadron Seven from May 2004 to September 2005. Deployments included Indonesia tsunami relief efforts and maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf. She led Expeditionary Strike Group Two from April 2009 to July 2010 and commanded a multinational counter-piracy task force in 2009.
In July 2014, Howard became the first woman to earn the rank of four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, as well as the first African American woman to attain four-star rank in any service. She was promoted to that rank when she became 38th vice chief of naval operations.
Howard was named the 2011 USO Military Woman of the Year, the 2013 NAACP Chairman's Image Award recipient and the 2014 Thurgood Marshall College Fund National Hero Award recipient.
Originally from Aurora, Colorado, Howard is a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. She earned a master's degree in military arts and sciences in 1998 from the Army's Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, Kansas.