By Debbie Gregory.
President-elect Donald Trump is considering Navy Adm. Michelle Howard to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Howard, who serves as the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, is accustomed to being among the first to brave the uncharted waters of diversity. In 1978, she was admitted into the U.S. Naval Academy; only the third academy class that accepted women. In 1999, she was among the group of five women chosen to be the first female combatant commanders in the U.S. Navy. This group included the first female to command a U.S. Navy warship, the late Captain Kathleen A. McGrath, who took command of the USS Jarrett (FFG-33) in December, 1998. A few months later, on March 12, 1999, Howard took command of the USS Rushmore (LSD-47).
In April 2009, Adm. Howard was just three days into her new job as head of a U.S. Navy task force charged with countering piracy in the Arabian Sea, when a cargo ship sailing under a U.S. flag was hijacked by pirates. Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, was taken hostage in the waters southeast of Eyl, Somalia, and transferred to a small life raft; it was Howard’s job to get him back. She did, and the incident later inspired the 2013 movie Captain Phillips.
Earlier this week, a group of 20 veterans organizations sent a letter to Trump asking him to “strongly consider” keeping Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald.
The groups signing the letter included Got Your 6, AMVETS, Community Solutions, Give An Hour, Institute for Veterans & Military Families, Marine Corps Reserve Association, Military Child Education Coalition, Military Chaplains Association, National Association of Drug Court Professionals/Justice For Vets, National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations, National Military Family Association, Veterans and Military Programs, Points of Light, Service Women’s Action Network, The Mission Continues, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Travis Manion Foundation, Veteran Artist Program, Warrior-Scholar Project and Wounded Warrior Project, Inc.
Their letter said, “While you continue your deliberations over who you will select to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, we ask you to strongly consider the proven track record of the current VA Secretary, Bob McDonald, who is leading the largest transformation in the department’s history,” the groups said in the letter.
The groups said in the letter that McDonald led an agency-wide transformation of the VA, which is showing “early signs of success.”