What’s not listed in this article is that as a Rear Admiral, Howard was the commanding officer of the task force that was responsible for rescuing Captain Phillips and his crew of the Mersk Alabama. From what I’ve read of now Admiral Howard, she is well qualified and well deserving of this promotion. Kudos for making history as the first female 4-Star Admiral in the US Navy.
Here’s an excerpt from Chips which is the Department of the Navy’s Information Technology Magazine:
CHIPS: You were the head of the Combined Task Force 151 when the Maersk Alabama was captured by pirates in April 2009. What are the lessons learned from the successful rescue of the ship’s master, and what were your thoughts during operations?
Rear Adm. Howard: One of the major lessons was a lesson relearned, which is that we have terrific Sailors and Marines, particularly the USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), which was the lead ship in that operation, and the special forces that boarded [the pirate vessel]. There were several ships out there, different associated assets were [involved], and every person did their job. The quality of people that we have, the care that they have, and the passion was probably the primary ingredient in that mission being successful.
From a tactical perspective, I could not have done that mission if we did not have reliable long distance communications. Look at Central Command, from the Somali Basin all the way to the Gulf of Aden, and the ships distributed through there with the fleet commander being homeported out of Bahrain, [it is] thousands of miles, and you are trying to coordinate with our headquarters, as well as coordinate with tactical units as the mission unfolds, so long distance communications were an essential mission set.
Another tactical piece that was a new lesson learned for me in terms of intelligence is that there are limitations to reachback. When you look at intelligence, and you go from the gathering phase to the analytical phase, there are advantages and benefits derived from having that core competency across the entire process chain, collocated with the commander.
If you are using reachback for the analysis phase, for example, the time and delay in pushing information back, having it analyzed and pushing it forward may not be timely for you to incorporate the knowledge that comes out [of reachback] as the mission moves forward.
The support overall was just tremendous, whether it was from civilian organizations or the fleet commanders. There was a huge on-scene team; there was a much larger remote team from Central Command going all the way back to the United States.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Navy has its first female four-star admiral.
She is Michelle Janine Howard, promoted on Tuesday to the service’s highest rank. The ceremony was held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery, near the Pentagon.
She will serve as the vice chief of naval operations, which makes her the No. 2 admiral in the Navy behind Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations.
Howard has served 32 years in the Navy. She is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982.
Among her many distinctions, Howard in 1999 became the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship.