WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy recently ended a longstanding ban on women serving in submarine crews. But with the news of integration come a number of questions and concerns.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, commander of Submarine Group 10 and leader of the Navy's Task Force for Women in Submarines spoke with bloggers on a DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable, May 11 about some of the issues the Navy and female sailors face in integrating women into submarine crews.
"As we go back and look at the lessons we learned in both 1978 and 1979, and again in 1994 and 1995, the Navy's got a great history of working our way through an integration like this," Bruner said.
The first women Sailors were assigned to non-combat ships in 1978, and the 1994 repeal of the Combat Exclusion Law allowed women to serve on combat ships in the Navy. The first batch of officer trainees have been accepted into the submarine training program, and will be serving on crews by late 2011 or early 2012, he said.
The Navy is considering the cost of modifying current submarines to allow enlisted women to serve on their crews, though there is no timeline set for integrating enlisted crews yet.
Previously there had been concern about bringing women onto submarines because living quarters offered little privacy and weren't considered suitable for mixed gender habitation.
"We're trying in a very deliberate fashion to ensure that one, we're treating the men and women exactly the same; and two, to be brutally frank, we're very careful that we're doing the right think both in representing the taxpayers' dollars and America as a whole," Bruner said.
Over the past 40 years, Bruner said, the percentage of men in the Navy going to college and earning technical degrees has dropped from 70 percent to 25 percent, while the number of women earning technical degrees in the Navy has risen.
"Today, women are actually earning more technical degrees than men are," he said. "We really need to open up the talent pool so we can maintain the best options available in our submarine force."
There are four submarines with two crews each in service now that are preparing to bring females officers aboard, Bruner said, and as new subs are built, privacy concerns may be a factor in their design.
"We may end up with more than three or four women being brought into these crews - the plan right now is to have two ensigns and a supply officer," Bruner said.
Bruner said that the integration of women into the submarine force is an emotional topic for some, but the Navy is taking the correct measures and going about the integration in a deliberate fashion.
"As we implement this, we'll learn lessons. Based on what we learn, then we'll make a decision on what the next step ahead is," Bruner said.
For more news from the Submarine Force visit www.navy.mil/local/sublant.