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The Navy Promoted a Woman to Its Highest Rank for the First Time

The times, they are a changin'. Good.


Women have long had a tough time in the military, and that’s putting it extremely lightly. That hasn’t stopped the U.S. Navy’s Michelle Howard, who was the first African-American woman to earn the rank of admiral, and now she’s been promoted to four-star admiral—the Navy’s highest rank.

A graduate of the Naval Academy in 1982, Howard has broken a lot of ground. In addition to being the first female African-American admiral and the first woman to reach the four-star rank, she was also the first to achieve the three-star rank and to command a ship.

Howard was promoted to four-star admiral on Tuesday morning and is now the vice chief of naval operations. She shared her thoughts on the service at the ceremony, saying:

Willingness to step up and contribute to a noble cause in your life is a sign of true selflessness.

Our sailors and Marines are this legacy. They are volunteers, and with every mission, they demonstrate our core values, values our founders would have understood—courage, honor, commitment.

And all of that despite exactly the same kind of garbage, “reverse sexism/racism” comments you’d imagine. A 2013 report revealed that at least one of her colleagues thought that her promotion path was sped up, and she “may not have had to cross as many hurdles in the same fashion to get where she was at.” I find that highly doubtful, considering that overcoming opinions like that is just one more “hurdle” on the pile.

She’s positive about the state of things and where they’re headed, though. Speaking to the Navy Times, she said, “Now I think about it all these years later, the combat exclusion law was repealed and women can serve on all classes of ships, all types of aircraft. And then the last couple of years, opening up the submarines to women—it’s significant.”

That’s great to hear from someone who definitely knows what she’s talking about on the subject. Keep fighting the good fight, literally and figuratively. You can listen to her in her own words right here.

(via HuffPo and Navy Times, image by the Official U.S. Navy Page on Flickr)

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.