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Task force planning for enlisted women on Navy subs

Jun. 11, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Female enlisted hoping to land a spot on a sub have at least two more years until they’ll get their chance.

A new task force stood up in May to develop a comprehensive plan of actions and milestones for integrating enlisted women on ballistic-missile, guided-missile and Virginia-class attack submarines. This plan is due in January, but a detailed implementation schedule won’t go to the chief of naval operations until March 2015, said Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, a Submarine Force spokeswoman.

An actual implementation date is yet to be determined.

Rousselow called the task force’s May 10 creation the “next step” in executing plans. Navy leaders have been giving this serious thought since at least 2006.

Rear Adm. Kenneth Perry, the commander of Submarine Group 2 in Groton, Conn., is heading up the task force. The Naval Academy grad has served aboard both fast-attack and ballistic-missile subs during his 31-year career.

The task force’s findings will be reported to the commander of submarine forces, Vice Adm. Michael Connor, before briefing the CNO, Rousselow said.

In a March interview with Navy Times, Connor said officials are still examining the changes to the subs needed to accommodate more women. He also stated that he believes the best crews to first host enlisted women will be those with female officers in place.

“There’s a leadership cadre that’s already there,” Connor said. “They sort of blazed the trail a little bit, and they’re mentors that they can look to when they have issues, and we just think that’ll make us more successful.”

The Navy used a similar task force to integrate female officers on ballistic- and guided-missile subs.

Female officers have been serving aboard SSBNs and SSGNs since November 2011. They will be integrated onboard the Virginia-class submarines in fiscal 2015.

In January, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced the first female officers had been selected to serve aboard Virginia-class subs, an opportunity he said would be eventually extended to enlisted women.

There are more than 20 women serving on submarines today.

“The men adjusted to us being there, and we adjusted to them,” said Lt. j.g. Megan Bittner, who is stationed on the ballistic-missile sub Ohio, in a 2012 interview. “It was quick. There were no big problems. No stumbling blocks along the way. It was just learning as a junior officer how you fit on the boat.”

The Ohio-class replacement is designed to accommodate both male and female officer and enlisted submariners. Construction is set to begin on the first Ohio-class replacement in fiscal 2021, with delivery to the Navy scheduled for 2027. The first strategic deterrence patrol will be in 2031.

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