USA — Navy to Start Training Female Submariners in July

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2010 — Navy offi­cials today announced they are mov­ing ahead with plans to inte­grate women onto sub­marines begin­ning in late 2011 or ear­ly 2012.

The deci­sion became pub­lic after Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates noti­fied Con­gress in Feb­ru­ary of the Navy’s desire to add women to sub­marines. With a con­gres­sion­al review peri­od com­plete, Navy offi­cials say they will begin tak­ing appli­ca­tions with a goal of train­ing 19 women, start­ing in July. 

“There are extreme­ly capa­ble women in the Navy who have the tal­ent and desire to suc­ceed in the sub­ma­rine force,” Navy Sec­re­tary Ray Mabus said in a press release. “Enabling them to serve in the sub­ma­rine com­mu­ni­ty is best for the sub­ma­rine force and our Navy. We lit­er­al­ly could not run the Navy with­out women today.” 

Adm. Gary Roug­head, chief of Naval Oper­a­tions, sec­ond­ed his enthu­si­asm for the change. “As a for­mer com­mand­ing offi­cer of a ship that had a mixed-gen­der crew, to me it would be fool­ish to not take the great tal­ent, the great con­fi­dence and intel­lect of the young women who serve in our Navy today and bring that into the sub­ma­rine force.” 

Vice Adm. John J. Don­nel­ly, com­man­der of Naval Sub­ma­rine Forces, not­ed that about half of all sci­ence and engi­neer­ing bachelor’s degrees today are award­ed to women. “Main­tain­ing the best sub­ma­rine force in the world requires us to recruit from the largest pos­si­ble tal­ent pool.” 

The Navy’s plan for inte­gra­tion calls for recruit­ing female Naval Acad­e­my grad­u­ates and pro­vid­ing them the same train­ing as giv­en to male sub­mariners, Rear Adm. Bar­ry L. Bruner, com­man­der of Sub­ma­rine Group 10 and the leader of the Women on Sub­marines Task Force, said dur­ing a phone inter­view with reporters. 

“We’re look­ing for the same qual­i­fi­ca­tions that we have for men,” Bruner said. “There is no dif­fer­ence.” Those qual­i­fi­ca­tions include a tech­ni­cal­ly-based edu­ca­tion that includes cal­cu­lus and physics, he said. Female can­di­dates for sub­ma­rine duty also will under­go the Navy’s intense inter­view and screen­ing process for prospec­tive under­wa­ter sailors. 

Because the pol­i­cy is new, offi­cials can’t yet gauge women’s inter­est in serv­ing on sub­marines, Bruner said, but added that a num­ber of female acad­e­my stu­dents and grad­u­ates have shown interest. 

The plan calls for phas­ing in three female offi­cers in eight dif­fer­ent crews of guid­ed-mis­sile attack and bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­marines, Bruner said. The class they will serve in is com­prised of 14 bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­marines and four cruise mis­sile sub­marines, he said. The sub­marines were cho­sen because the berthing and restrooms are designed so they need very few changes, he said. It is too soon to say specif­i­cal­ly which sub­marines they will serve on, but there will be one each in King’s Bay, Ga., and Ban­gor, Maine, he said. 

Bruner became con­vinced of the need to inte­grate women onto sub­marines years ago, he said, after spend­ing some time aboard allied nations’ sub­marines that includ­ed women crew members. 

“I went in real­ly with my eyes wide open,” he said. “I came away under the impres­sion that there is no dif­fer­ence in the cama­raderie or abil­i­ties [of crews] on ships with women on board.” 

Bruner lat­er became the com­man­der of a strike group with women on all of its ships. “I asked, ‘Why aren’t we doing this on sub­marines? It’s such a viable tal­ent pool.’ ” 

The Navy has learned from its 1994 change that inte­grat­ed women onto sur­face ships, Bruner said. The ser­vice will have enough women on ships and sub­marines, he said, so that they aren’t iso­lat­ed. And, men and women sub­mariners will have addi­tion­al train­ing before the inte­gra­tion and there will be female sailors avail­able as men­tors, he said. 

After talk­ing to cur­rent sub­mariners and their fam­i­lies, Bruner said, he does­n’t think the inte­gra­tion will cause much of a cul­tur­al change. 

“The change to the cul­ture on sub­marines is going to be pret­ty min­i­mal, to be hon­est,” Bruner said. The only con­cern among cur­rent sub­mariners, he said, is that all crew mem­bers live up to the demands of the under­sea service. 

“When you wear the dol­phins of a sub­mariner, you have to prove that if there is a casu­al­ty on the ship that could result in the loss of the ship and all the lives on the ship, you have to be able to react cor­rect­ly to save the ship,” Bruner said. “That’s the most import thing to submariners.” 

Bruner said he has no doubt that the women will prove themselves. 

“I think we have the right process­es in place and we’ll train on them again,” he said. “We’ll hit all the poten­tial areas that could cause problems.” 

At a town hall meet­ing held last night at King’s Bay Naval Base, Bruner said, only two wives with­in an audi­ence of about 75 expressed dis­con­tent over the new pol­i­cy. Their con­cerns, he said, were whether women would get pref­er­en­tial promotions. 

Bruner reit­er­at­ed that the women will be held to the same work­place rules as men. “Some­times change can be hard, and the way you get through it is through edu­ca­tion and explain­ing why you’re doing it and how you’ll go through it,” he said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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