Vice Adm. Michelle Howard will pin on her history-making fourth star Tuesday in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. (MC2 Chris R. Williamson / Navy)
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For the first time in the Navy’s 236-year history, a woman will be pinned with a fourth star.
Vice Adm. Michelle Howard will be promoted Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery, and will become the vice chief of naval operations, the service’s No. 2 officer.
A 1982 Naval Academy graduate, Howard has achieved many firsts in her career. She was the first black woman to command a ship — the amphibious dock landing ship Rushmore in 1999 — and went on to command Amphibious Squadron 7 and later Expeditionary Strike Group 2.
Many of the barriers she faced and surmounted don’t exist anymore, or at least not to the same degree they did at the outset of her career, Howard said in a Monday interview.
“My perspective is that it’s the opportunities that exist for [women] that is the biggest change [from when I joined],” she said. “Now I think about it all these years later, the combat exclusion law was repealed and women can serve on all classes of ships, all types of aircraft.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.”
Howard, who most recently served as the deputy CNO for operations, plans and strategy, said she’ll be focusing on “culture” issues as VCNO, especially in the areas of cyber and information security in an age of social media and online gaming.
Howard is relieving Adm. Mark Ferguson, who is taking over as commander of Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy.
The ceremony will take place at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery beginning at 9:30 a.m.