NAPLES, Italy – U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard addressed the servicemembers and civilians of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, June 14, 2016, during her first All Hands Call since assuming command of JFC Naples last week.
Howard spoke to the JFC Naples staff and touched on events in her young life that continued to influence her command focus throughout her Navy career.
"Do the right thing and be persistent about doing the right thing,” Howard said about values that haven’t changed in her mind since being introduced to them at the age of 12.
It was the young 12-year-old Howard who was watching a television show about a military service academy when she knew what she wanted for her future. But after announcing to her older brother that she wanted to attend a service academy, her spirits were dimmed when he told her that it was a law that women couldn’t attend military academies.
"I felt my whole world spinning,” Howard recalled. It was her mother who lit a spark in Howard to go after what she thought was right. "Doing right for the benefit of everybody is the most important thing,” said Howard, recalling her mother’s words at the time.
When the law allowing women to attend service academies was changed in 1976, it opened up the door for Howard to follow her dream and enroll at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1978.
It’s the same persistence and continual focus on excellence that Howard challenged the All Hands Call attendees to keep striving for.
"I have the best crew here…you,” said Howard. "It’s you, the people of this command, whether you’re military or civilian, that make the mission happen.”
Howard’s family influence also extends to her father, a former U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant with the Strategic Alert Command.
It was growing up with this influence, practice of drills and fear of a possible nuclear attack that stressed the importance of vigilance to Howard from a young age. Vigilance and being aware of vulnerabilities is something that Howard told the group that she would prioritize during her tenure at JFC Naples. Howard emphasized the importance of cyber security in today’s environment and said the security of networks is of paramount importance. Howard cited a seminar she attended where a speaker from a software company said there are two types of organizations: corporations that have been hacked and those who don't know they've been hacked.
"The key things I want you to take away this morning’s talk is steady as she goes, full speed ahead and be vigilant.”
Howard also stressed to the group the importance of speed and practicing a quick response to a contingency, crisis or full-blown conflict.
After her opening remarks, Howard fielded a variety of questions ranging from professional reading material to how she balances the other requirements she has as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
"When you have more than one hat, you have to get the synergy, and there are wonderful synergistic opportunities,” Howard responded.
Howard touched on the importance of being part of a team and stressed that being a part of NATO and JFC Naples encompasses a mindset of unity and being part of one team. Howard concluded the All Hands Call with an echoing statement.
"Je suis JFC,” Howard said.
Story and photos by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Patton