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The United States Merchant Marine Academy Announces 2014 Commencement Speaker

KINGS POINT, N.Y., May 14, 2014 - The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point today announced that Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans, and Strategy, has been chosen as this year's commencement speaker. The commencement will be held at USMMA Saturday, June 21, 2014.

“The United States Merchant Marine Academy is honored to have Vice Admiral Howard as our commencement speaker. She embodies the ideals of our Academy, and is an outstanding role-model for our graduates who are about to embark on a lifetime of service and leadership,” said Rear Adm. James A. Helis, Superintendent.

“What an honor to address the 2014 graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The Academy and her graduates have an enviable heritage of service to our nation. They live their motto, “deeds not words”, and I look forward to meeting the latest generation of Maritime leaders,” said Howard.

Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.

Howard’s initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley (AS 31) and USS Lexington (AVT 16). While serving on board Lexington, she received the Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins award, which is presented to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership. She reported to USS Mount Hood (AE 29) as chief engineer in 1990 and served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as first lieutenant on board the USS Flint (AE 32) in July 1992. In January 1996, she became the executive officer of USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and deployed to the Adriatic in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a peacekeeping effort in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Sixty days after returning from the Mediterranean deployment, Tortuga departed on a West African training cruise, where the ship’s Sailors, with embarked Marines and U.S. Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.

She took command of USS Rushmore (LSD 47) on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. Howard was the commander of Amphibious Squadron Seven from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf. She commanded Expeditionary Strike Group Two from April 2009 to July 2010. In 2009, she deployed to CENTCOM theater, where she commanded Task Force 151, Multi-national Counter-piracy effort, and Task Force 51, Expeditionary Forces. In 2010, she was the Maritime Task Force commander for BALTOPS, under 6th Fleet.

Her shore assignments include: J-3, Global Operations, Readiness and executive assistant to the Joint Staff director of Operations; deputy director N3 on the OPNAV staff; deputy director, Expeditionary Warfare Division, OPNAV staff; senior military assistant to the secretary of the Navy; Chief of Staff to the director for Strategic Plans and Policy, J-5, Joint Staff, and deputy commander, US Fleet Forces Command.

USMMA is a federal service academy that educates and graduates licensed merchant mariners and leaders of exemplary character who serve America’s marine transportation and defense needs in peace and war. With 95 percent of the world’s products transported over water, these leaders are vital to the effective operation of our merchant fleet for both commercial and military transport. Academy graduates abide by the motto “Acta Non Verba" - deeds not words. USMMA is administered by the U. S. Maritime Administration under the auspices of the U. S. Department of Transportation. For more information about USMMA’s commencement please click: Class of 2014 Commencement

Updated: Wednesday, May 14, 2014