Gateway H.S. grad becomes first female four-star admiral in history of U.S. Navy

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus congratulates Adm. Michelle Howard after putting on her fourth star during her promotion ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Howard is the first woman to be promoted to the rank of admiral in the history of the Navy and will assume the duties and responsibilities as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations from Adm. Mark Ferguson.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus congratulates Adm. Michelle Howard after putting on her fourth star during her promotion ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Howard is the first woman to be promoted to the rank of admiral in the history of the Navy and will assume the duties and responsibilities as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations from Adm. Mark Ferguson.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Navy has promoted Vice Adm. Michelle Howard to admiral, making her the first female four-star officer in the Navy’s 238-year-history, the White House said Tuesday.

Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado who has served in the Navy for 32 years.

“Michelle Howard’s promotion to the rank of admiral is the result of a brilliant naval career, one I fully expect to continue when she assumes her new role as vice chief of naval operations, but also it is an historic first, an event to be celebrated as she becomes the first female to achieve this position,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said.

Howard, who was the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship, will become deputy chief of naval operations, plans and strategy, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“Her historic career is taking a next step today,” Earnest said.

Howard’s promotion comes nearly six years after Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody became the U.S. military’s first female four-star officer.

Howard, a 1982 graduate of the Naval Academy, made history when she commanded the amphibious dock landing ship Rushmore in 1999, Earnest said.

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CNN contributed to this story