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Vice Adm. Michelle Janine Howard's husband, Wayne Cowles, and her sister, Lisa Teitleman, change Howard's shoulder boards during a ceremony Friday in Norfolk, Va. Howard became the first African-American woman to attain a three-star rank. (MC1 (SW/AW) Rafael Martie, U.S. Navy)
A little more than three months after the Defense Department announced that Navy Rear Admiral Michelle Janine Howard had been selected for appointment to the rank of vice admiral, Howard was promoted to three-star rank. With the assumption of her new job as deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, Vice Admiral Howard marks another milestone in an illustrious career. She last served as chief of staff, J5, Joint Staff, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
--------------------------------------------------------- RADM Howard: The True Key to Defeating Piracy First published USBE Online April 16, 2009
When Rear Admiral Michelle Howard took command of Expeditionary Strike Group 2 during a ceremony held on board USS Boxer on April 5, 2009, she also assumed command of the Combined Task Force 151, an international maritime coalition created to disrupt, deter and thwart piracy.
The first African-American woman to command a US Navy battle ship, Howard reportedly said at the hand over: “ESG 2 has executed three missions without missing a beat… My top priority right now is to deter piracy... I want to continue the extensive international coordination Admiral McKnight started. That’s the true key to defeating piracy. Piracy is a problem that affects all maritime nations and requires an international solution. I’m looking forward to working with naval professionals from around the world on this vital mission.”
Like her predecessor, Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, ESG 2’s commander since November 2007, RADM Howard probably never thought when she graduated from the Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a masters in military arts and sciences, she'd “be sailing the ocean chasing pirates, or doing it alongside the navies of so many different countries, especially Russia and China,” as Admiral McKnight put it.
Newly arrived from her post as senior military assistant and key adviser to Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, where she helped him manage Navy and Marine staff of more than 900,000 and a $140 billion budget, RADM Howard commands the multinational task force established to conduct counter-piracy operations to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.
From USS Boxer, she told National Public Radio that "at sea, they are focused on what pirates are doing and trying to define areas they are working." She also said that they are focused on finding the pirates, countering the pirates, and bringing the pirates to justice in each [member] nation or nations willing to prosecute."
No stranger to maritime security operations, she was in the North Arabian Gulf in 2005, RADM Howard says they have found that “increasing the speed of their ships, using evasive maneuvering, pulling up their ladders, [and] using fire hoses over the side can help evade the pirates.”
The demure, but tough talking female admiral became the first African American woman to command a ship in the US Navy on March 12, 1999. Little did she know that a decade later she’d be at the helm of halting the rise of piracy along the coast of east Africa. “Our job is to fight and win the nation’s wars,” RADM Howard told Women of Color magazine in 2008. RADM Howard received the 2008 Women of Color Career Achievement award for her stellar service to the people of the United States.
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