U.S. Navy, Adm. Michelle Howard lends a hand to Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus as he and Wayne Cowles, Howard's husband, put four-star shoulder boards on Howard's service white uniform during her promotion ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on July 1, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Navy, Adm. Michelle Howard lends a hand to Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus as he and Wayne Cowles, Howard’s husband, put four-star shoulder boards on Howard’s service white uniform during her promotion ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on July 1, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

*The U.S. Navy has promoted Vice Adm. Michelle Howard to admiral, making her the first female four-star officer in the Navy’s 236-year-history to receive the service’s highest rank.

Howard was also the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship.

She is perhaps best known for leading Task Force 151, which saved merchant marine Captain Richard Phillips when he was captured by Somali pirates in April 2009.

According to her online Navy bio, Howard will become vice chief of naval operations, which makes her the No. 2 admiral in the Navy behind Gen. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations.

“Her historic career is taking a next step today,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Vice Admiral Michelle Howard accepts the Chairman's Award onstage during the 44th NAACP Image Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on February 1, 2013 in Los Angeles

Vice Admiral Michelle Howard accepts the Chairman’s Award onstage during the 44th NAACP Image Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on February 1, 2013 in Los Angeles

Howard has served 32 years in the Navy. She is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado.

She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982, and made history when she commanded the amphibious dock landing ship Rushmore in 1999.