Who could have guessed that Rear Admiral Michelle Howard's first week on the job would play out like something out of a James Bond movie, gripping us with every twist and turn. But this was no movie. The drama on the high seas was real. Eventually U.S. snipers saved Captain Richard Phillips, who was kidnapped by Somali pirates a few weeks ago. And there at the center of the rescue mission was Howard, the first African-American woman to hold her position. While the captain was eventually rescued, the struggle to end piracy continues: Captain Phillips testified this week before the Senate that private security could prevent piracy. Somali pirates are still lurking the seas, and just last week hijacked a merchant ship from the United Arab Emirates and a Greek-owned bulk carrier near Madagascar. Meanwhile, Howard is going about her work; continuing to guard the high seas. She talks exclusively to ESSENCE.com about last month's dramatic events.