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First Name: Michelle

Last Name: Howard

Birthplace: March AFB, CA, USA

Gender: Female

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Janine

Date of Birth: 30 April 1960

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1982 - present
Michelle Janine Howard

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1982

•  Gulf War (1990 - 1991)


Michelle Janine Howard
Admiral, U.S. Navy
38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations

Michelle Janine Howard was born on 30 April 1960 to former U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Nick Howard and his British wife Phillipa. She is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, CO. Howard graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 where she was one of seven black women in a class of 1,363. She also graduated from the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998 with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.

Howard’s initial sea tours were aboard the USS Hunley (AS-31) and the USS Lexington (AVT-16). While serving on board Lexington, she received the Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership. She reported to USS Mount Hood (AE-29) as Chief Engineer in 1990 and served in the Persian Gulf War, during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as First Lieutenant on board the USS Flint (AE-32) in July 1992. In January 1996, she became the Executive Officer of USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and deployed to the Adriatic in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a peacekeeping effort in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. Sixty days after returning from the Mediterranean deployment, Tortuga departed on a West African Training Cruise, where the ship’s sailors, with embarked U.S. Marines and U.S. Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.

Commander Howard took command of USS Rushmore (LSD-47) on 12 March 1999, thereby becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. Howard commanded Amphibious Squadron 7 from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Persian Gulf.

Howard's shore assignments include: Course Coordinator/Instructor for the Steam Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) course; Action Officer and Navy’s liaison to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Military Services (DACOWITS) in the Bureau of Personnel; Action Officer J-3, Global Operations, Readiness on the Joint Staff from 2001–2003; Executive Assistant to the Joint Staff Director of Operations from February 2003 to February 2004; and Deputy Director N3 on the OPNAV Staff from December 2005 to July 2006.

From July 2006 to December 2006, Howard was the Deputy Director, Expeditionary Warfare Division, OPNAV Staff. She was Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy from January 2007-January 2009, during which time (1 September 2007) she attained the flag-rank of Rear Admiral (lower half). That promotion made her the first admiral selected from the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1982, and the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy selected for flag rank.

In April 2009, Rear Admiral (LH) Howard assumed command of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2 and Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4). The USS Boxer was the flagship for CTF 151, a multinational task force established to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.

Following her promotion to the two-star rank of Rear Admiral on 1 August 2010, she served as Chief of Staff to the Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, J-5, Joint Staff until July 2012. After her promotion to Vice Admiral on 24 August 2012, Howard served as Deputy Commander U.S. Fleet Forces Command, headquartered at Norfolk, VA, until July 2013 .

From July 2013 to 1 July 2014, VADM Howard served as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy (N3/N5).

On 1 July 2014, Michelle Janine Howard became the U.S. Navy's first female four-star Admiral and the first female to serve as Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

Medals, Awards & Badges

Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal Award with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit with 2 Gold Stars
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy Commendation Medal with 3 Gold Stars
Navy Achievement Medal
Joint Meritorious Unit Award with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Navy Unit Commendation
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation with 3 Bronze Stars
National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Service Star
Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Service Star
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with Silver Service Star
NATO Medal (Yugoslavia)
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Surface Warfare Officer Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge


Howard is the recipient of the following awards:

1987 - The Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins Award
2008 - Women of Color Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Career Achievement Award
2009 - Dominion Power Strong Men and Women Excellence in Leadership Award
2011 - USO Military Woman of the Year
1 February 2013 - "Chairman's Award" at the 44th NAACP Image Awards

Howard is featured in the 2013 film, Captain Phillips.

Family Life

Michelle Janine Howard is married to Wayne Cowles, a retired U.S. Marine.

Honoree ID: 228411   Created by: MHOH




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