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U.S. Navy names its first female four-star admiral

WASHINGTON, July 1 - Michelle Howard on Tuesday became the first woman to reach the rank of four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, part of a trailblazing path in the armed forces.

Howard, 54, was sworn in at a ceremony overseen by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the Pentagon said in a statement. With her promotion, she became the 38th vice chief of naval operations.

"Her accomplishment is a direct example of a Navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves - a nation where success is not born of race, gender or religion, but of skill and ability," Mabus said.

Howard graduated from high school in Aurora, Colorado, and was one of the first women to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. She holds a master's degree from the Army's Command and General Staff College.

Howard took command of the USS Rushmore, a dock landing ship, in 1999. She was the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy, and is the first female vice chief of naval operations.

In 2009, she commanded a multinational anti-piracy task force in the Indian Ocean. Howard was the Maritime Task Force commander for Baltic operations in 2010 as part of the 6th Fleet.