KINGS BAY, Ga. (NNS) -- The commander of Submarine Group 10 announced the Department of the Navy's plan to allow women to serve on submarines, during a press conference at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., April 29.
With the Ohio-class ballistic submarine USS Alaska (SSBN 732) providing the backdrop, Rear Adm. Barry Bruner formally announced the Navy's policy change to various regional and local electronic and print outlets on the submarine base's waterfront.
"On February 19, 2010, the Secretary of Defense signed letters notifying Congress of the Navy's intention to change the policy regarding the assignment of women to submarines," said Bruner, the lead for the Navy's Women in Submarines Task Force. "The law required both houses of Congress to be in session for 30 days prior to the change in policy taking effect. Those 30 days have now passed and the Navy intends to proceed with the plan to integrate women into submarines."
Implementing the policy change will begin by assigning 24 female officer to the submarine force. Eight different crews of guided-missile attack (SSGNs) and ballistic-missile (SSBNs) submarines will be integrated with three female officers. The assignments involve two submarines on the East Coast homeported in Kings Bay and two on the West Coast homeported in Bangor, Wash., each of which is supported by a blue and gold crew. More living space is available aboard these platforms which will require no modification, permitting the Navy to move quickly on integrating female officers in submarines.
"It is important to note that the percentage of women graduating with technically-based degrees in our country has risen to the point where females now make up 51 percent of the total talent pool of young Americans we can recruit to enter our submarine force in the nuclear-trained officer community," said Bruner. "With the conversion of four ballistic-missile submarines to guided-missile submarines, women now have the opportunity for both forward deployed strike and strategic deterrent operational experience.
"Integration will include female officers assigned to ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines, since officer accommodations on these submarines have more available space and will require minimal modification. Additionally, the plan integrates female supply corps officers onto ballistic-missile submarines and guided-missile submarines at the department-head level. These officers will provide mentorship to the new female officers in addition to bringing shipboard experience to their department head jobs."
Guided-missile submarines provide the Navy with an unprecedented combination of strike and special operation missile capability within a stealthy, clandestine platform, while ballistic missile submarines are specifically designed for extended strategic deterrent patrols. There are currently 14 ballistic missile submarines and four guided-missile submarines in the Navy's inventory.
"It is important to note that women were first assigned to selected non-combatant ships in 1978; and in 1994, following repeal of the combat exclusion law, women were assigned to billets in surface combatants," said Bruner. "We are planning the first female submarine officer candidate accessions into the standard nuclear training and submarine training pipelines this year, making it possible to assign the first women to submarines in late 2011 or early 2012. The Navy has a good history of being able to work through these kinds of changes in policy, and I anticipate we will be just as successful in this endeavor."
The commanding officer of USS Alaska, Cmdr. Kevin Byrne said implementing the policy change will not pose a major challenge.
"Integrating women on board is nothing new to us. Women have been getting underway on submarines for overnight embarks and qualifications, familiarization, and sea trials embarks for weeklong periods. So having women permanently established on board is not a major adjustment for the crew."
Several Sailors said they are are welcoming the addition of their new shipmates.
"It's not about whether you are a man or woman, if you think you can work on a submarine, then just do it. The only thing that matters is if you can hold you own and accomplish the mission," said Missile Technician 1st Class(SS) Gordon Jeffcoat, an Alaska Blue Sailor. "Earn your dolphins and support the watchbill that's all that matters to me."
"The training that we go through as submarine officers is more than a year and during that time, there are females there, there was even a female on my team during prototype," said Ensign Aaron Kemper, a prior enlisted Sailor currently serving as the assistant operations officer aboard Alaska. "In submarines, we need the best possible people and having worked along side females in the Navy, I welcome the change."
For more news from Commander, Submarine Group 10, visit www.navy.mil/local/csg10/.