The ceremony was held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery, near the Pentagon. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said during a ceremony that Howard’s promotion to the Navy’s second-highest position is a “representation of how far we have come, and how far she has helped bring us.” “I’m just very proud of our service,” Howard said. Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. She graduated from the Naval Academy In 1982. Michelle Janine Howard became the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship, the USS Rushmore. She served 32 years in the Navy. In 2009 she assumed command of Expeditionary Strike Group Two and was deployed to thwart pirates in the Gulf of Aden aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. Leading Task Force 151, she was a key figure in the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips, commanding officer of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, which was seized by Somali pirates.