Women's History Month: Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michelle Howard
Navy leaders and pioneers
From the Revolutionary War to current conflicts, women have played a crucial role in the security of our nation and the success of the U.S. Navy. Join us as we celebrate Women's History Month by profiling women leaders and pioneers across the Navy.
Admiral Michelle Howard is currently serving as Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
Q: Why did you decide to join the Navy?
A: The first step was actually making the decision to apply to a service academy and it turns out that was not an easy step. I saw a documentary and thought, "Well, that is what I want to do." I went and talked to my older brother who made it pretty clear that women were not allowed to go to service academies. It was against the law. I was in shock. That was just hard for me to think that there was a world where girls weren't allowed to do the same things as boys.
So I went and talked to my mother and she confirmed that it was the law. Service academies were closed but then she made a great statement; she said, "Look you're only 12, and you may change your mind. But in a couple of years if you still want to go, you can apply and if they are still closed to women we'll sue the government." Luckily, the academies were opened when I turned 16. A law suit was unnecessary.
In deciding which service academy to attend, I did some research. I looked at West Point and I looked at what women were allowed to do in the Army. Then I looked at Air Force and I looked at what women were allowed to do in the Air Force. And then I looked at Annapolis, and out of the Naval Academy you could go to the Marine Corps and women could do in the Marine Corps what they could do in the Army. And then I looked at what women could do in the Navy, and at the time, women could do in the Navy what you could do in the Air Force. And so I asked to attend the service academy that I thought gave me the most opportunity after graduation. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to have choices.