(April 26, 2009) - While the facts surrounding the kidnapping and rescue of the Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips have been widely reported, less well-known is that ship which saved him was commanded by a black woman, Rear Admiral Michelle Howard. Howard received the assignment of leading the U.S. Navy's counter-piracy task force just three days before the Maersk Alabama was attacked by Somalia pirates. Its probably one of the most exciting missions the Navy has been on in for a long while, Howard told the Navy Times. Howard is the first of her 1982 U.S. Naval Academy class to reach the rank of admiral. In 1999, Howard became the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Rushmore. She holds a masters degree in Military Science Arts and Sciences from the Armys Command and General Staff College. Howard said the mission of her unit, Combined Task Force 151, will remain deterring and disrupting piracy off the Horn of Africa. Right now, the policy is, fight piracy, and I am all about that policy, she told the Navy Times. We are quite capable of staying out here and doing this mission. Howards task force operates with U.S. warships deployed to the eastern Africa area as well as those sent from allied nations. Before her assignment to the strike group, Howard was the senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy.