Admiral Michelle J. Howard

2020 Speaker

ADMIRAL MICHELLE J. HOWARD was the first female U.S. Navy Four-Star Admiral. A ground-breaking leader during her 35-year career in the U.S. Navy, she was the first woman to achieve the rank of four-star admiral and the first woman to be appointed to the position of vice chief of naval operations (the second highest rank in the Navy). She was also the first African-American woman to reach the rank of three-star and four stars in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the first African-American woman to command a ship in the Navy. She was thrust into the international spotlight in 2009 as leader of the counter-piracy task force that rescued civilian Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. The rescue was later depicted in the film Captain Phillips. Howard is a former visiting professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, where she focused on the cyber domain and associated issues in strategy and policy. She led Sailors and Marines multiple times in her career as the commander of a ship, an expeditionary task force and a naval theater. This culminated in her final post as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa. Howard is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. She is the first woman graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to become an admiral. She was recently appointed to the IBM board.

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