A first: U.S. Navy names its first 4-star female admiral

The glass ceiling was broken again — a ceiling that's been firmly in place for 236 years.

Meet Michelle Howard, the first woman in the U.S. Navy's history to be named a four-star admiral. Along with this honor, she's also been promoted to the Navy's second highest position: the vice chief of naval operations. (Via YouTube / U.S. Navy)

President Obama nominated Vice Admiral Howard for that fourth star back in December. At the time, she was the deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy. (Via U.S. Navy / Monica A. King)

Military Times says the Senate approved the nomination just a few weeks later. The writer noted this will not only make Howard the first woman in Navy history to become a four-star admiral, but it "will also make her the first African-American woman to attain four-star rank in Pentagon history."

Although many might be wondering why the Navy is just now recognizing a four-star female admiral, Time reports women's participation in the military is still fairly low.

Quoting a Pentagon demographics report, the Time writer noted women only account for 14.5 percent of active duty military personnel. In the Navy, women account for 16.4 percent; in the Army, 13.5 percent; and just 6.8 percent in the Marine Corps. 

Now, this isn't the first time a woman in the entire U.S. military has been given that coveted fourth star.

General Ann Dunwoody of the U.S. Army was tapped for a fourth star back in 2008. (Via YouTube / Leading Authorities)

And the U.S. Air Force decorated General Janet Wolfenbarger with its highest honor in 2012.

As for Howard, she was already a glass ceiling breaker. Her biography on the U.S. Navy's website notes that back in 1999 she "became the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy" after she took over command of the USS Rushmore.

According to the Navy Times, Howard has noted some of the challenges she faced as a woman in the military no longer exist today.

"Now I think about it all these years later, the combat exclusion law was repealed and women can serve on all classes of ships, all types of aircraft.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."

Howard will be promoted Tuesday at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. She told the Navy Times in her new position, she plans to focus on culture issues related to cyber and information security.

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