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)