Michelle J. Howard served 35 years in the United States Navy. She led Sailors and Marines multiple times in her career as the Commander of: a ship, an Expeditionary Strike Group, Task Force, and a Naval theater. Her last command was from 2016 to 2017 as U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa. She simultaneously led NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples with oversight of missions from the Western Balkans to Iraq. Operations in her career include: NATO peacekeeping, West African Training Cruise, Indonesia Tsunami Relief operations, and the rescue of Maersk Alabama from Somali Pirates. Michelle J. Howard is a Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.
In 1999 Michelle J. Howard became the first African American woman to command a ship in the Navy. In 2014, she was the first woman to become a four-star Admiral in the U.S. Navy and the first woman to be appointed to the position of Vice Chief of Naval Operations (number two in a Military Service). She is the first African American woman to reach the rank of three-star and four-stars in the Armed Forces.