“If you don’t believe today was a first, when I called to order four-star shoulder boards for women, they didn’t [even] exist,” Adm. Howard said during Tuesday’s ceremony, The Navy Times reported. “A special contract was let, and you folks are seeing the first set in the history of the United States Navy.”
Her promotion to four-star admiral was not the first time Adm. Howard made history. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and then went on to become the first black woman to command a Naval ship — the USS Rushmore.
Adm. Howard’s promotion took place at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and was presided over by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who said that Adm. Howard serves as a role model for his own three daughters.
“She is…a great example of how much we as a nation and [as] a Navy lose if we put artificial barriers in,” Mr. Mabus said at the ceremony, according to The Washington Post. “If we don’t judge people based on their ability…on their capability.”
Some critics have claimed that Adm. Howard was promoted for political reasons, rather than merit, though Mr. Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who also presided over her promotion, both rebutted those claims, according to The Navy Times.
“The Navy chose the best officer to be the VCNO — that’s the only thing that happened here today,” Mr. Mabus said.
Adm. Greenert called her career “tremendous.”
“Thirty-two years of mainstream, at-sea — tough tours. Michelle came up through the amphibious expeditionary warfare arena and came into [Washington] and did the hard jobs that needed to be done. And so she is definitely ready to assume this position, there is no question in my mind,” Adm. Greenert said in The Navy Times.