Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.
~Robert C. Gallagher
It’s official, the Navy will begin allowing women on submarines. I’ve seen a lot of debate on this. Many people–both Sailors and wives–are very negative toward this. Many embrace it. The Navy is definitely trying to get the word out and talk to Sailors and their families about it. In fact, the Admiral of the sub group had a town hall meeting for families to discuss it. He presented facts and then opened it up to questions/comments.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) passes Mount Vesuvius after a port visit to Naples, Italy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Parker/Released)
I, of course, as a wife of a submariner, have my own opinion on it. But before I go further, please see and read the disclosure at the top left of this page….. Have you read it? No really, read it…. Okay, now that that is done, here’s the skinny: I think it’s fantastic and about time.
Let’s get the facts on integrating women onto submarines. There will only be female officers going on submarines right now. They are going to choose 19 with the hopes that 16 make it through all the schools (this is the normal accession/drop rate). They will be chosen in the next few months from the Naval Academy, NROTC, STA-21 and OCS (there may be one more but I forget). Like all submariners, they will all be completely volunteer.
These women will go through the normal nuclear schools and should be heading into the fleet in late 2011. There may be a few that will be brought in from surface ships but they will go through the exact same process as everyone else.
The female officers will be placed approximately two on each crew (blue and gold) of one SSBN and one SSGN on each coast (west and east). The GNs and Boomers already have the facilities for them to integrate the women with no modifications because officer berthing is 2-3 people per room. So it works out perfectly. SSNs will not be used at this time because they would need to be modified to do this.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN 728) arrives for a routine port visit to the island of Crete. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley/Released)
At this time, it is only officers who are being integrated. They are watching to see how well this works and only after then would they consider integrating enlisted females. However, there would be a lot of modifications that would need to be done and that would cost a lot of money. Right now, that’s not on the table. And frankly, my opinion is that by the time they are ready to integrate enlisted women onto submarines, it’ll be time for them to design a new submarine class and they will probably just design it so they can easily be integrated. But who knows, maybe they’ll do it sooner.
Now, I know many women are worried that their husbands will be tempted to cheat. Let me reiterate: only officers are being integrated and only 19 of the top candidates will be allowed to go on submarines. That’s pretty cream of the crop. These women are going to be so career-focused they are not going to want to mess anything up. Besides, we all know they are going to be living in fish bowls and they are going to be out to show that women can do this.
And while we are on this topic… women, if you are worried that your man might cheat because he’s cooped up for several months with other women, let me say this: you have more to worry about in your marriage than this happening. Because let’s face it, if a guy (or girl for that matter) wants to cheat, or has the capacity to cheat, he’s going to whether he’s on the boat or on land. And just remember, they also get port calls… plenty of opportunity to cheat if they want to.
Ohio class ballistic missile submarine USS West Virginia (SSBN 736) transits the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway as it returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. from a patrol mission. (U.S. Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kimberly Clifford/Released)
And the question of sexual harassment happening on the boat… well, again, these women are professionals and they are not going to be making up some wild stories. In fact, if anything, they might tend to keep any real harassment quiet because of the scrutiny that they will be under from the Navy and the rest of the world.
Now, as to the health side of it. Again, these women are cream of the crop. I’m willing to bet they are going to be responsible in family planning. The Navy is not going to knowingly take a pregnant woman underway. If she is discovered to be pregnant while underway, she will be removed from the boat when it is safe to do so. This is no different than if a man is injured/becomes extremely ill and must leave.
There is also NO evidence that the air on the boat is harmful to a fetus or to women planning to have children in the future. Of course, the Navy is going to be monitoring this quite closely, too.
Now, I know that the submarine community is basically the last Navy community that puts tradition ahead of political correctness. I mean, I hear about the stupid tricks/stuff my husband and his shipmates say. But think about it. These women know what they are getting in to. They are CHOOSING it. They are going to be pretty thick-skinned.
The Admiral was asked if he truly thought women could do everything the men could do on a submarine. And he said there was nothing on the boat that he has ever seen that would be compromised because a woman was on board and doing a job as long as she was physically fit. He said that hey, there are some men on board that aren’t the strongest of people. If there is something heavy to move and a woman can’t do it, there are going to be men who aren’t strong enough either. They just go and find the strongest person on the boat for the job
Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t until the ’70s when women were even allowed in the regular Navy. And it wasn’t until the ’90s that women were allowed on surface ships.
Guess what? I’ll bet you anything that the same worries/excuses came from the ranks/world… “women can’t do the job like men,” “women are going to entice men to cheat,” “women are going to get pregnant and leave an open billet,” “women need special care” and so on and so forth. And you know what? It’s all been de-bunked.
Ya know… a hundred years ago, it was thought that women weren’t intelligent enough to vote. They weren’t smart enough to own property. They weren’t to be trusted to make political decisions. And it wasn’t until 60 years ago that women were thought of as anything but only capable of only running a home… and surely not a business.
Civilization has come a long way. Women being allowed on submarines is just another step in the direction of progress.