President Obama has nominated the Navy's highest-ranking woman to lead U.S. Navy forces in Europe.

Adm. Michelle Howard is tapped to head U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Forces Command, in Naples, Italy, according to a Thursday Defense Department announcement.

Howard, a 1982 Naval Academy graduate, has had a storied career. She was the first black woman to command a U.S. warship and would later oversee the counter-piracy task force that freed civilian Capt. Richard Phillips, which was the subject of the movie "Captain Phillips." She also was the first woman to reach the rank of 4-star admiral.

The daughter of an Air Force master sergeant, she said she confronted prejudice early in her naval career; peers say she built a career by taking tough jobs. She has served for two years as the vice chief of naval operations.

If confirmed, Howard will replace the outgoing Adm. Mark Ferguson, who has led NAVEUR since 2014.

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