A 1982 Naval Academy graduate, Adm. Michelle Howard became the first black woman to command a U.S. Navy combatant ship, USS Rushmore (LSD 47) (1999). She was the first woman promoted to the rank of four-star admiral (2014). Upon her promotion, Howard became the highest ranking woman in U.S. armed forces history and the highest ranking black woman in Navy history. She served as VCNO from 2014 to 2016. Howard also became the first woman four-star admiral to command operational forces when she assumed command of both U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Naval Forces Africa and Allied Joint Forces Command Naples (NATO) from 2016 to 2017. Howard retired from the Navy in 2017, after nearly 36 years of service.
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